Written & Directed by: #EvanLukeBarker
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Four people who barely know each other, all living under the cloud of a dangerous pandemic without seemingly any idea what the government is doing (imagine that), decide to meet up on a video call in order to hatch a plan to finally get some answers, but may have gotten themselves in to something they wish they hadn’t.
Screen-life films have been on the rise in recent times, a trend that seems to be accelerating out of necessity due to the restrictions imposed by current global pandemic, forcing filmmakers and other creatives to get well... creative. And it seems to be a genre that can work if done right, solid mystery thriller Searching and 2020 breakout horror hit Host are examples of that. Unfortunately, Raw Action Creatives debut production Operation Anonymous doesn’t have enough in it to be another shining example of the genre.
The films written synopsis speaks of a rapid decline in the population, soldiers patrolling the streets and resources being scarce after four hundred and seventy-eight days of a total world lockdown, all really compelling plot points but sadly none of which are actually explored during the films whole twenty-minute runtime. Honestly. If the words “Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic” weren’t emblazoned on the screen right at the open, one might be hard pressed to actually know what it was that the quadrants of this particular video call are actually meeting about.
Instead, for the first two-thirds or more, we essentially just watch our cast talk repeatedly and rather unenthusiastically of having a plan (no details of which are given or its purpose), being wary of danger (we’re never sure from what or whom) and demanding answers, which because the film is far too mysterious for its own good is pretty much what we find ourselves doing as well.
The film’s dialogue seems largely improvised and while the performances themselves are okay, that dialogue feels stagnant, repetitive and often surrounded by large pockets of dead air, crucially hampering a film that is centred around people talking, meaning it doesn’t build any kind of tension it needs to in order to make its attempt for a strong ending pay off.
The film does get some points for authenticity, it looks and feels like the Zoom calls we have all come to grin and bear over the last year, complete with all the quirks and frustrations that come with them; people dropping out of calls, audio sync issues, awkward bouts of silence. Sometimes it's on purpose, sometimes it isn’t which works for it in terms of realism but does make it seem a little bit haphazard at times.
Operation Anonymous isn’t the first film to be inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and probably won’t be the last. The film isn’t as fruitless as our character’s call might have been and tries to finish strong but doesn’t do enough to make its mark.