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Exodus [Kiran Dhoot, UK, 2018]

Humanity and trust are both called into question as desperation for survival erupts into paranoia and violence in this post-apocalyptic sci-fi short. Directed by Kiran Dhoot, Exodus tells the story of three civilians who have taken refuge in an underground bunker following a cataclysmic solar event that has triggered a mass evacuation and has left many in the lowest strata of society (our protagonists included) helpless and stranded.

The film opens with the earth seen from the outer regions of space being swept up by large waves of radiation from the sun whilst we hear the sound of cross talk from global radio broadcasts detailing the disastrous events of a solar flare rendering the earth uninhabitable. The prologue is reminiscent of Contact [Robert Zemeckis, US, 1997], the special effects here doing a lot to evoke the terrifying beauty and vastness of deep space.

At this point, the camera cuts to a shot of a single makeshift radio that has been put together by one of the group to send and receive signals in the hope of rescue. Our three characters Caesar, Grace and Gibson are restricted to the dark confines of the bunker with their resources, comfort and emotional well-being in rapid decline. Caesar, previously a shop assistant, is the reluctant leader of the trio, the most rational member of the group who acts as a mediator between Gibson, a military rescue officer with blood on his hands and racked with guilt and Grace, the strong-headed female of the group who will stop at nothing to escape, as they bicker amongst themselves and grow increasingly frustrated with each other and the harsh predicament into which they have been forced. Difficult decisions have to be made by the group, their zeal and willingness to collaborate hanging by a thread, even whilst their chances of rescue are appearing to increase.

There is a lot to like in this 20-minute chamber piece. The storyline is ambitious and dramatic, the score (also written by Dhoot) is ominous and suspenseful and Elle Smart’s visual effects are equally impressive. The dark and gritty production design also helps to provide an edgy and disturbing atmosphere. The film is let down slightly by some shaky sound editing and the script isn’t without its clichés and egregious plot contrivances, but overall this doesn’t take too much away from the film being engaging and entertaining. Additionally, to the more discerning viewer, the role of Grace may come across rather one-dimensional, light on backstory and apparently only there to serve as the selfish and nagging sociopath. Where her male counterparts are flawed, there is still room for sympathy in the way their characters are more roundly drawn.

This is a very decent effort from writer/director Kiran Dhoot who displays a flair for crafting a suspenseful and moody environment, and there are elements of the story that invoke the psychological intensity of films such as Vincenzo Natali’s Cube (Canada, 1997) or Sunshine (Danny Boyle, UK/US, 2007). Let’s hope that, in time and with a larger budget, Dhoot might be able to follow in the footsteps of those cult classics. Watch this space…

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