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I was lucky enough to catch a screening of this short film at the London Sci-Fi Festival and was delighted to see it's now available to watch online. Admittedly, I was very keen to see the film, as I'd been following the making of it after discovering David Oyelowo was cast.
Technically speaking, Rahab is near flawless. The direction is well realised and resembles the moody coldness of films such as Blade Runner and Children of Men. In fact, the former has a lot to answer for here and director Robert McLellan makes no attempt at hiding where his inspiration comes from (if you look closely, you'll even spot Rick Deckard's gun at one point). One could argue that Rahab could be taking place in one of those 'Off World Colonies' of the Ridleyverse and follows similar themes to Blade Runner, such as children returning to confront their parents (creators) and the consequences of playing God. Saying that, there's not much time to explore these themes in the 20 min running time, but I guess they're saving a richer exploration for the feature which I have no doubt this was created to lead to. This does point out one of Rahab's flaws, and that is maybe at times it's a little too derivative but really it's so well done you forgive it.
I think one of my major complaints is the writing which might not be fair, as I'm not sure if there was a lot of scenes left on the cutting room floor, but it does feel we're not given as much information as we need at times. Luckily we are allowed some quiet scenes with the protagonist, so when the big reveal that she's pregnant happens, we at least care enough about her to give a monkeys. Unfortunately though, we're not giving much time with the Spy (who the credits call MILL). I found this to be immensely frustrating as the world he comes from seemed infinitely more interesting than the techno city world we're shown. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the army outside the gate could have been a more effective focus for the film. But again I guess they're saving that for a bigger story. There are some good aspects to the writing, such as the cutting back and forth between story lines. At first this was a little confusing, but by the end of the story, you'll see why it was written that way.
What the director has to work with though, he does well. Giving us grand epic landscapes to sit in awe at, whilst allowing us to move into the characters for their more intimate moments. This gives the film a real sense of a big feature, and let's us feel part of this incredible looking world, whilst feeling some emotional attachment to the characters. There are times we're allowed to take a moment and just gaze upon the scenery as we transition between scenes, which is the kind of pace not often seen in modern cinema. This also highlights the problem with a lot of modern sci-fi shorts everything is so snappy and bleak this film takes its time and though it starts off bleak, it ends with at least some sense of optimism.
What really makes this film stand out though is the acting. Jessica Oyelowo does an outstanding job portraying the title character, adding great levels of depth to her performance and has nuances so subtle, you'll need to watch it on the big screen to really appreciate it. David Oyelowo steals the show though and moves through his performance with the cool restraint and a man who, underneath the surface, is boiling with anger and rage. He's such a delight to watch and gives the film an almost Shakespearean vibe he manages to move from gentle to frightening at the click of his fingers and is so good at it, you forget sometimes he's playing across from his real life wife. A special mention should go to the supporting cast, who equally are made up of a selection of solid performers. Acting is something which can let short films like this down, especially with those in supporting roles.
Everything about this film screams feature. The soundtrack is simply incredible. Vanessa James out does herself with the exceptionally emotive score, which starts with subtle dark tones and leads to a grand explosion of orchestra by the finale. It's worth sitting through the (very long) credits simple to enjoy a replay of the music as well as enjoy some of the films design art work.
Speaking of the credits, this film has an unbelievably large crew for a short (not to mention all the extras). There are reports that this film cost somewhere in the region of 20K to produce. But even that must have been a stretch when you take into consideration the amazing production design and VFX if that amount is correct, then what they did with the money is an achievement in itself.
Speaking of VFX, I'm finding it hard to believe they were done by just two people, one of which was apparently the director even though they're not quite on par with today's modern features, they still look amazing. The city especially looks incredible and when it's destroyed at the end, my jaw was simply on the floor.
To summarise then. If you are in the mood for a well made science fiction short, then I would give this a try but you'll probably feel as I do that they tried to squeeze what should have been a feature film into a short. A feature film which I wouldn't be surprised popped up in the future.
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