Theoretically, A Paranoid Conspiratorial Phone Call indie film review

★★

Directed by: Jorge Villacorta

Written by: Jorge Villacorta

Starring: Jorge Villacorta

Film Review by: Patrick Foley



We’re living in a golden age for conspiracies right now. Everyone from Donald Trump to Denise Welch seems to be on the verge of uncovering a grand scheme to explain COVID, the US election and why on earth Arsenal signed Willian. The idea of a master planner behind all the chaos is almost comforting. Theoretically, a paranoid conspiratorial phone call shows that it would be anything but.


A mysterious figure known only as ‘the boss’ takes a series of phone calls from clients. He is a ‘Pro bono spyhunter’ – the man the spy world calls when they need to reshape political landscapes. But as he becomes embroiled in one scheme, his own reality is called into question.


Theoretically… is not an easy watch. The film is a conceptual piece in which the audience sees only the spymaster (director and writer Jorge Villacorta) as he partakes in a number of phone calls at his office desk. Viewers are fixed in place for the film’s 90-minute runtime, and only hear the Boss’ side of the call – to give the impression of our viewpoint being that of a hidden camera. Viewers must be prepared to focus intently in order to follow the developments of the plot, and given the unconventional approach, this gets increasingly difficult as the film goes on. The concept is interesting, but does not translate well to a film this long. Similar fixed-location movies such as Locke manage to go the distance by being far more stimulating – plot-wise and visually. Perhaps intentionally, Theoretically… fails to do this. Whatever the director’s intended outcome, it does not serve the film well.


Jorge Villacorta’s performance is strong as the shadowy and corrupt Boss. His casual, business-like demeanour as he discusses false-flag attacks, faux-revolutions, kidnapping and murder is disturbing and sinister. His arrogance and untouchable manner almost seem unrealistic, but as recent scandals such as the crimes of Cambridge Analytica have taught us, these soulless figures do in fact exist. Whilst the performance is authentic and affecting, it again struggles to sustain the viewer’s interest over the runtime. This is particularly evident as the Boss uncovers shocking information relating to himself – and yet his behaviour seems to change very little. More variation in the performance would have helped keep audiences engaged.


The film feels very contemporary with the exploration of power, conspiracy and paranoia. Despite its minimalist nature, the director manages to weave in allusions and nods to a variety of topics in the real world. A hint that the spymaster may have impacted Brexit is in plain sight, and his repeated references to using superhero movies as propaganda is a notable embrace of the conspiratorial mind. The boss eventually finds himself drawn into his own web of confusion, perhaps inevitably for someone who lives in a world of lies. The ambiguous and open-ended nature of his calls, and the questions left with the audience at the end of the movie make this an ominous parable for the truth-twisters who serve as the spymaster’s influences.


Theoretically… is an interesting concept for a movie that is stretched out far too long to maintain the audience’s interest. Jorge Villacorta’s performance fits his vision for the project well, and the film is thought-provoking and modern with its portrayal of conspiracy theories and shadowy figures trying to control our reality. But the reality here - is that as a concept, it simply does not suit a feature film.