Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Having been told little about the nature of the enemy, SUM1 jumps at every unfamiliar sound or movement, and we are invited to do likewise."

Private SUM1 (Iwan Rheon) has lived on Earth all his life but has never seen the surface before. Few humans now do. It doesn't belong to them any more. It belongs to the nonesuch. Or so SUM1 has been told.

The thing about living underground is that it's difficult to know what's really happening where, according to his superiors, the battle lines are. Getting to the surface doesn't prove as enlightening as he thought. He's assigned to solitary duty in a remote watchtower surrounded by woodland. Occasional human stragglers pass through the area - they're supposed to be rounded up and sent down to the shelters, but their reluctance to comply feeds his doubts. What's really going on here? Have people simply been corralled where they're easy to control, helping those in authority to hang on to power?

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SUM1's mind wanders as he spends his days going through the same dull routine. A small, very friendly blond rat whom he named Doc provides him with some company (and a device through which to share his speculations with viewers); we're invited to wonder what Doc knows that he doesn't, especially when we learn that the animal was also friends with his predecessor, whose fate he longs to know. We spend most of the running time with just the two of them; by the time another human arrives, SUM1 has all but made up his mind that there's a conspiracy at work. But is he right?

Packing in its special effects in the first and final scenes, this film saves on money in the long middle stretches, restricting the action to a single room and a small patch of trees. Having been told little about the nature of the enemy, SUM1 jumps at every unfamiliar sound or movement, and we are invited to do likewise. This technique is intermittently successful. Too many things about SUM1's surroundings - from the uniform he wears to the blue filter making the lighting look dystopian and the pulsing yet angstful soundtrack - are overfamiliar to fans of science fiction films. The film relies on this to an extent, and will have worked well for a good part of its Fantasia audience, by using familiarity with similar works to set up red herrings. For fans of old BBC science fiction series, it may have a certain nostalgic appeal. Nevertheless, beyond the central idea, there's too little that's original to really make much impression.

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2017
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A young soldier who has never left the safety of the militarised underground warrens before is assigned to a solitary lookout post in the forest where the silence begins to scare him and prompts rumination about the real nature of the enemy.

Director: Christian Pasquariello

Writer: Christian Pasquariello, Gabrielle Pfeiffer

Starring: Iwan Rheon, André Hennicke

Year: 2017

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Germany


Fantasia 2017

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