Director: Tim Smit
Cast: Dan Stevens, Bérénice Marlohe, Tygo Gernandt
Runtime: 1 hr 32 mins
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 24 August 2017
Synopsis: Set in a future version of the world, the video game style plot follows an experiment for unlimited energy, harnessing parallel universes, which goes wrong. Chased by drones and soldiers, pilot and physicist Will Porter must race through an imploding world to get the Redivider box to a tower, which will save humanity, including his family, in the real world.
If the idea of watching a movie unfolding like a first-person shooter video-game excites you, then you’ll be glad to hear that ‘Kill Switch’ does precisely that. Most of the film is seen from the perspective of ex-NASA astronaut Will Porter (Dan Stevens), who is hired by a secretive corporation called Alterplex to travel to an alternate universe it has created as the panacea to mankind’s energy needs in order to stabilise the system with a device known as the ‘redivider’. Unfortunately for Will, what may have seemed like a simple task turns out to be anything but, as the malfunctioning system leaves him stranded eight kilometres away from the beam-emitting tower of energy. As you may guess, what follows is a race against time to make it to the tower and insert the titular switch before our universe and its parallel copy implode, with Will being pursued by malignant drones and armed militants along the way.
It’s an intriguing premise no doubt, but director Tim Smit and his co-writers Omid Nooshin and C. Kindinger squander the opportunity to deliver a captivating science-fiction thriller. Chiefly, it isn’t ever clear just how and why things are happening the way they are on this so-called ‘echo’ universe. How is it that the identical world ended up having carbon life-form if it was never supposed to be designed that way? Is the identical world a real-time reflection of what happens in the real world, such that whatever catastrophe happens in one ends up in the other too? Why is that the environmental anomalies are causing passenger trains and ocean liners from Earth to fall through holes in the clouds into the ‘echo’? How is that the militant environmental group that had apparently precipitated the current state of chaos between the two worlds has ended up in the ‘echo’ too? Even if we are prepared to be patient and generous with the film’s jumble of science and fiction, these questions of logic are never ever satisfactorily answered at any point throughout the course of the narrative.
In fact, there is not much of a story to begin with in the first place. Besides the occasional non-POV flashbacks which establish just what led up to Will being trapped in the ‘echo’ and/or try to give him an emotional centre as a surrogate father to his sister’s (Charity Wakefield) son Donny (Kasper van Groesen), the rest of the scenes consist largely of a random, often indistinguishable, mix of running, shooting and hiding from rebels, security drones and unnatural calamities. Although the setup seems to have been ripe to explore the themes of corporate malfeasance and environmental neglect, neither are developed much in the present-day scenes. Indeed, it almost seems as if the filmmakers decided to turn the experience of playing a video-game into a movie, rather than shoot a movie from the perspective of a playing a video-game, such that the rubrics of plot and character are simply lost or overlooked here.
No wonder then that in the few scenes where we actually see him appearing onscreen, Stevens (best known for ‘Downtown Abbey’) seems to be looking perpetually bemused, not quite sure just what is expected of him as an actor. He’s probably more relieved being simply a disembodied voice behind the interface graphics reminiscent of ‘Minority Report’, and letting the audience focus instead on the two other Alterplex colleagues he joins forces with to try to stop the impending doomsday across both worlds. That appears to be his director Smit’s preoccupation too, seeing as how the latter has fun with the interface design on Will’s helmet, especially in how it keeps reminding him to seek medical help for his concussion. Unfortunately, that sense of enjoyment will likely be lost on those of us watching it, who can neither appreciate it as a fully-fleshed movie or enjoy the thrill of playing it like we would a video game. Ironically therefore, it’s likely that you’ll be wishing for a ‘kill switch’ yourself, than sit through this movie-game hybrid that does neither satisfactorily.
(Neither enjoyable as a movie or as a video-game demo-reel, 'Kill Switch' will have you wishing there were such a device to stop its monotony of running, shooting and hiding)
Review by Gabriel Chong