Directed by Mark Battle
Starring Dean Temple, Travis Mitchell, Suzanne Bryan
Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
We’re in the midst of an undeniably brisk winter, and it only seems right to consume films that feel seasonally appropriate. Enter Mark Battle’s The Convict, a short film that boasts a distinct chill but has enough heart to stop you feeling like you’ve been shut out in the cold.
Set in America, a recently escaped convict (Dean Temple) desperately tries to avoid re-arrest. However, his need for evasion runs much deeper than anticipated as he harbours a personal motive and desire to fulfil during his time as a fugitive – but what exactly is his intent?
The opening shot of a window depicting peaceful scenery could not remain serene for long as the tranquillity is literally shattered and we’re plunged into the action. Sweven Films sure do know how to arrest out attention (if you’ll pardon the criminal pun). As the thus far unnamed convict despairingly rummages around the house he broke into, the absence of non-diegetic music (which would usually bereave a sequence of a sense of urgency and drama) contributes to the tension and pulsating atmosphere, and allows us to focus on the convict and question how he managed to pull off the great escape. He’s badly injured. His wrists are still cuffed – we can only imagine that the altercation that led to his arrest must have been a bloody one.
The Convict operates in a complex area of morality in terms of character and this notion is excellently echoed in the grey colour palette. Witnessing a wounded man in need of attention, as an audience, we naturally root for and gravitate toward such a helpless character. But the orange jumpsuit indicates and unsavoury type and the bloodied clothing and armed defence indicate a man capable of violence. We don’t know where our loyalties and empathies lie and our position as an audience is compromised. For example, as he performs medical treatment on himself, The Martian style, we grimace with him and pray he make a swift recovery but as the film progresses, he makes some unethical decisions and we’re sent askew with out sympathies.
Visual cues infer that underneath the criminal veneer, the titular character has an emotionally rich and layered history. His tattooed wrist that reads “Grace” invites more questions and the sparse plot and infrequent pieces of dialogue does little to answer them; although, there’s a part of us that relishes the unknown. The choices in cinematography with carefully constructed framing and camera angels are fantastic and continue to generate an elusive and mysterious quality that leaves us gripped right up until the moving denouement.
Fantastically and technically crafted with a brutally simple premise, The Convict strikes the perfect note of moral ambiguity and uncertainty whilst emphatically keeping our interests engaged from the explosive introduction through till the revealing and emotional ending.