The Hunt For Gollum

The Hunt For Gollum

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

If there's one universal truth about fantasy films, it's that the ones which work - and they are few and far between - have been made with love. This sort of storyline is all about vision and epic endeavours, so what better way to approach it than by making a film which is all about that ethos - one which is made entirely for love, without money entering into it? On a miniscule budget without any studio backing, Chris Bouchard and his team of hard working Tolkein fans have made a short film as good as any of Peter Jackson's multi million dollar efforts.

Perhaps the only downside of Bouchard's superb film is that it's just 40 minutes long - I would have liked to see more of this. Still, it has only a slender storyline, and is well paced at this length. It fills in some of the period in between The Hobbit (which Jackson is currently producing) and The Fellowship Of The Ring. It's fair to say that if you're not familiar with these works then the larger plot won't make much sense to you, but this works better for not wasting any time explaining that generally well known story.

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Its premise is that the wizard Gandalf has discovered that Gollum, former owner of the dangerous One Ring, knows of its current location. He is desperate to stop this information falling into enemy hands, so he calls upon the ranger Strider (also known as Aragorn) to find Gollum and prevent that from happening. But a team of orcs - and something altogether scarier - are also on the pitiful creature's trail.

Shot in Wales and Epping Forest, this film proves that you don't need New Zealand to create epic landscapes. Bouchard's tight direction makes excellent use of ordinary rocks and woodland to produce an atmosphere fraught with tension and a sense of something magical. True, the cutting is occasionally rough, but there is none of the awkwardness here that one usually finds in amateur films. The lighting and sound work are first class and the acting, though not amazing, certainly good enough once one gets past the oddity of hearing these familiar characters speak with English accents (as Tolkein himself probably intended them to).

Particularly impressive is the main battle scene - there are hardly any of those awkward moments where enemies politely queue up to be slaughtered which one often sees in big budget productions. Instead we get something which, for all its limitations, feels visceral and real, the final one-on-one encounter being particularly ugly. This film delivers real thrills and real scares with special effects that stand up well alongside their professional counterparts. It may not be making any money, but if there is any justice in this world, it should make the careers of Bouchard and his team. It is quite simply the best amateur film I have ever seen.

You can watch The Hunt For Gollum on at http://www.thehuntforgollum.com

Reviewed on: 03 May 2009
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Gandalf sends Strider out to find Gollum before he gives away the location of the One Ring.
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Director: Chris Bouchard

Writer: Chris Bouchard, based on the books by JRR Tolkein.

Starring: Adrian Webster, Pat O'Connor, Arin Alldridge, Rita Ramnani, Greg Draven, Christopher Dingli, Joshua Kennedy

Year: 2009

Runtime: 40 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Sci-Fi 2009

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