Pitch Black Heist

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

At first glance, Pitch Black Heist looks like a playful cinematic challenge. Two men are recruited to crack a safe with a light sensitive alarm. Not the slightest chink of light can be let into the room where they are working. How are we to observe the action? We don't. What we do see is the run-up, generating enough subtle tension to set alarm bells ringing in our minds as soon as they enter the room. In the process, we discover that, like many short films, this is also operating as a metaphor. One of the men is in the dark about the intentions of the other.

In the central roles, Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender both deliver solid, if not outstanding, performances. Cunningham seems warm and open until we realise he's asking a lot more questions than he'll answer. Fassbender, for once not hampered by a battle with a borrowed accent, is blunt but genial within the bounds of this professional relationship. Small talk revolves around a history of petty crime. An arm wrestling bout is a clumsy metaphor for competing forms of masculinity, but in retrospect seems to morph into something else.

Shot in lush, vivid black and white, the film carries a sense of age and expectation, as if we are viewing historical snippets assempled after the commission of a real crime, but with architecture too gorgeous to be incidental. Narrow streets and small rooms frame the men, containing them, as each contains his secrets. The apparent ease with which they bond still leaves room for things to turn much darker.

Despite never quite living up to the strength of its premise, Pitch Black Heist is a sharp little film and a fine display of talent. It's well worth a look.

Reviewed on: 21 Nov 2012
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Two men team up to rob an office safe but they must work around a light-triggered alarm system.
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Director: John Maclean

Writer: John Maclean

Starring: Liam Cunningham, Michael Fassbender, Alex MacQueen

Year: 2011

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2012

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