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Perfecting first-person perspective in film is the new cinematic frontier and as films experiment with how best to make it work – some with impressive results aka Hardcore Henry – many simply feel gimmicky and fail to really pull the viewer in. Studios are discovering that capturing that video game POV on screen isn’t so easy. Now comes Kill Switch, which is not related to the actual 2003 Namco video game of the same name (for anyone who remembers that shooter), but something else entirely, and while it has a strong premise, lots of style, and a good lead performance, it lacks punch and barely sustains its already short run time despite several good moments.
It is the future, and as the world seems destined for catastrophe, in comes Alterplex Corporation with a promise for a new technology that will save everyone, a massive tower capable of producing limitless clean and cheap energy. While initially unsure as to why they want him, ex-NASA pilot Will (Dan Stevens) takes a job with the company and answers directly to upper-executive Abby (Berenice Marlohe) and security guard Michael (Tygo Gernandt). They reveal to him Alterplex’s secret, The Echo, a duplicate Earth they use to harvest lost resources. Will has woken up on The Echo in possession of the ‘black box’, otherwise known as the ‘redivider’ and now has to try and figure out why he is there and what his mission is on this strange yet familiar world.
Directed by Tim Smit, Kill Switch is loaded with ideas and for first-person POV gamers, there is an almost clinical response to the movie’s start, tapping into decades of playing experience that has laid down the tracks per se of what to expect in a sci-fi shooter. Indeed, it almost feels like a cutscene before play, and admittedly, there is a sense of loss to the movie in that we as a viewer are left exactly as that, passive observers. Still, that might count as a success for Kill Switch as it certainly compels those familiar with the type of gameplay. It’s not all first-person (though most is), and the movie attempts to build something out of its rudimentary building blocks despite its often confusing plot. That’s part of the plan of course as we try to figure out, as Will does, what exactly is going on, however there is a lack of momentum to it that keeps it lagging, even if much of it is certainly compelling.
Questions emerge about parallel universes and there is the constant question of what the black box really is, itself a crucial key in all of it, though to some degree, not as successfully as it might have been. This isn’t the thinking-man’s movie it has potential for though there’s plenty here to ponder. This is far more experimental than practical and while Stevens does good work, the total commitment to the narrative device holds it back.
Movie description: Kill Switch is a 2017 sci-fi thriller about a near future where a new energy source meant to save to the planet backfires and a pilot must save himself and his family.
Director(s): Tim Smit
Actor(s): Dan Stevens, Bérénice Marlohe, Tygo Gernandt