Collision [Jonell Rowe, UK, 2018]
Driving tests and the breakneck advance of invasive technologies are two very reasonable things to feel anxious about. Combine the two and it’s more of a nightmare than reverse bay parking in a Halfords car park. Collision is the story of a malignant satnav out to settle past debts. Facing issues of justice and artificial intelligence, it is a disturbing warning against both technology and dangerous driving.
The hypothetical ethical issues of artificial intelligence have been widely explored in contemporary culture, with Black Mirror [Charlie Brooker, UK, 2011- ] being the most obvious example. This means that Collision has a lot of fierce competition.
While the ending was well done, with the whimpering driver being whisked off by the satnav to a perilous elsewhere, the short failed to achieve any real sense of danger. This was no fault of the actors - particularly Leon Dean as Malcolm Hall, whose palpable nerves help to create the film’s atmosphere - but perhaps it’s because the satnav is just not that scary. Memory implants, data stalking and politically motivated bestiality? Yes, that’s frightening. But satnav does not have the same spine-tingling oomph.
The driving test is interrupted by a brawl between a woman and her cheating boyfriend. Besides foreshadowing the coming twist, it is difficult to work out why Rowe focuses on this argument for so long as it has very little to do with the overarching themes of the short. As the film is only six minutes long, it may have been better to dedicate this time to a deeper examination of Malcolm’s guilt or the satnav’s intentions.
Despite these flaws, this film is well shot and well scripted. Although it is not quite as sinister as perhaps intended, it still serves as a stark reminder of our reliance on technology and the dangers of driving.
'Collision' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.