Directed by: Tim Earnheart
Starring: Nadine Nagamatsu, Corrie Fleming, S. Joe Downing, Ayuba Audu, Reeve Scott
Short Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
When Tim Earnheart’s award winning action/thriller short Safe begins, it is rather easy to get lulled in to a false sense of security (pun is absolutely intended). What starts very much as a familiar double life thriller yarn, soon takes on a whole new angle and ends up taking influences from the home invasion thriller and, in a number of ways, Sci-Fi/Horror. However, for all the stylishness, in your face brutality and action (there really is a remarkable amount stuffed into its very brief 8 minute running time), it is actually the smaller details that prove the most important and – ultimately – most shattering.
The story sees a lady (Nadine Nagamatsu) waiting for her soon to be adopted daughter (played briefly by a young Corrie Fleming) to get home but this woman has a secret life, one that enables her to use a specific set of skills when masked intruders arrive at her home and demand the contents of her safe. Despite sounding a little like Adam Wingard’s terrific You’re Next in how the hunted becomes the hunter, this is a little different.
The masked intruders almost resemble a crew that would terrorise a film from The Purge series but all is not quite as it seems with Safe, as this is no ordinary home invasion. The less said about the meat of the narrative, the better (for fear of spoiling anything) but despite some shakes, the film unwinds very nicely overall and connects its dots in a most satisfying (or maybe most effective would be a better way to put it) fashion. The central McGuffin is purposely used in an almost darkly comic way on first reveal and when the crux of things kicks in mid-film, initially you are taken aback. But do stick with this initial change of pace because writer/director Earnheart knows exactly what he is doing, as the well-played (if a second or two too early revealed climax) displays in the most powerful, dramatic and quite unexpected way possible.
ABOVE: the official movie trailer for Safe.
Shot with a strong embrace of visual effects and a flare for bullet-flying violence, Earnheart uses Matt Fleming’s effective home-set cinematography to successfully confine the violence and muster more intensity in this smoothly made exciting thriller. The music pounds as hard as some of the onscreen thumps and when the plot is tied together you find yourself quite impressed by this taut little effort. An effort with some lessons to tell in how time can be cruel as well as kind and how the first answer is not often the right one.
The time quite literally flies and the plot is mapped out nicely and wrapped up equally as well, with a tough central performance from Nadine Nagamatsu that sells the films potentially outlandish moments and central premise. Meanwhile the strength of the twisty writing keeps you intrigued right up until the aforementioned brilliant payoff. I very much enjoyed Safe, which, ironically, does not play it safe, boasting the bravery to go to some visually grand territory to get to a worthwhile and memorable final bang.
It is little wonder the film has played well at numerous festivals and screenings because it is an impressively shot and written film that tips its hat to multiple genres and certain big screen styles but never loses grasp of the strong story it is telling in the process.