Only Savages Short Film Review

Updated: Jan 5


★★★

Directed by: #BenPage

Starring: #AlexanderMcPherson #AlexVaughnMiller

Film review by: Matthew Sawyer



Only Savages is an ambitious and distinctive live action animation film. It uses various filmmaking techniques, mainly relying on two puppets; The Lieutenant (McPherson) and The Captain (Miller).


The pair are on an interplanetary mission of destruction when they come across a planet that appears to be inhabited. We recognise this planet as Earth. They must decide whether to proceed with the annihilation or not, creating conflict between the reluctant Lieutenant and the Captain. Tension is high as the Lieutenant makes his decision, knowing that pressing the button to fire the missile would obliterate life on the planet, but failing to fulfil his duties could result in being court-martialed.


From the opening shot of the film, we are treated to an impressive score from Sumner James that sets the mood perfectly. Page gives the film interesting direction through his use of close ups and lingering on the right shots. This is all the more impressive given this is his first directing position. We also get some striking visuals from the cinematographer Thomas Fisher. For example, when we first see the Earth, Fisher’s use of colour and lighting intensifies the emotion that we feel.


However, where the film lets itself down is in the story. Although the premise is simple, it gives us little details but never really follows up on them. For example, the photograph of a woman carrying a milkmaid’s yoke with a baby in the basket. We get a shot of the photograph in the first few seconds and we see it a couple more times throughout but we are never exactly sure of its significance. The other main story issue is the ending; once the pair have made their decision about the Earth, something unexpected goes wrong for them. Unfortunately, the film never explains why or what the outcome was. Perhaps it’s karma, illustrating that one selfish decision could be the last that you make. Unfortunately, this message is all but lost and only the filmmaker can be sure.


Despite this, the film does lead us to question who the savages really are. Is it the people on Earth, like the Captain claims? Or if the characters make the decision to destroy Earth, does that make them the savages? These are all interesting questions that the film raises.


This film is very well-made and an excellent debut for Page as a director. This is a very unique and impressively executed story. I look forward to seeing Page’s future work.


#MatthewSawyer