Directed by: #StevenAJohnson
Written by: Steven A. Johnson
Loyalty is a recurring theme in Steven A. Johnson’s crime drama, how the purest or insidious of allegiances forge the direction of our lives. Johnson’s film revolves around a group of friends reunited in tragedy, and to honour their shared loyalty, decide to finish something that gets them embroiled in a criminal conspiracy. The wordy title The Moment Trap - The Lennon Dream refers to the character’s filmmaking background, having sought artistic careers when younger but now have all settled into unexciting existence. Especially Mickey, whose dead-end lifestyle has led to recurring dreams about the death of John Lennon, pushing him deeper into his rash decision making. Though the motifs of Lennon’s death and criminal elements allow for some interesting visual and editorial flourishes, the memorable strength of the film is the core friendship.
It’s a bit of a slow start in introducing and understanding the contexts of the characters, all of them receiving phone calls about the death of their mutual friend Arav, a documentary filmmaker. The film he was working on investigating a potential parking scam conspiracy in London, Mickey, Frankie, Sherbert, Bay decide to finish the film for the money, not realising the truth in what their friend may have uncovered. The detail in Johnson’s script allows the dialogue to give a lived-in feel to the characters; though some motivations are the usual, it avoids the impression of stock characters. Johnson takes the time to set up his central characters, so when Mickey decides to kidnap corrupt parking warden Clyde, the excitement comes from the personal drama between friends rather than threats of criminal retaliation. Though the criminal retaliation also has its moments.
Performance-wise, The Moment Trap - The Lennon Dream has its standouts, I particularly enjoyed the work of Oliver Malam as the exasperated Frankie who is constantly trying to be the voice of reason, and Anthony Harwood as the kidnapped Clyde, whose overwhelmed panic sells the danger quite well. Again, while Johnson casts a wide net of ideas in his film, the best part of the film is the complicated simplicity of those five characters in that living room trying to figure out what to do next. Characters buy into the idea that they’re enacting justice, realisations and revelations, bargaining and frustration. While the metaphorical notions of Lennon, assassination to silence truth, and artistry are interesting, this almost chamber film of friends digging themselves deeper into a hole driven by misguided loyalty is far more engaging.
The Moment Trap - The Lennon Dream doesn’t necessarily bite off more than it can chew but rather focuses on elements that aren’t clear. Johnson has something great in the centre of the film but the broader themes need sharpening to make a more cohesive picture. It falls into cliché in some places but its core performances keep a nice grounding and make for an interesting story.