What Jack Built short film


Directed by Matthew Mahler Starring Timothy J. Cox Short film review by Lorenzo Lombardi

Rarely do we come across short films where a lone actor carries the whole flow of the picture successfully, but Timothy J. Cox accomplishes that coup with exceptional execution in What Jack Built.


The film follows the titular engineer Jack as he devises and constructs a contraption unbeknownst to the audience. What follows is a purely visual experience, with most of the focus being on Jack gathering and building.

Cox’s performance --- as being the case with most of his other turns --- is astounding. He is one of the sole driving forces of this film, and delivers a character that is both oddly compelling and thoughtfully mysterious. Cox manages to portray the character convincingly, adding incredible amounts of nuance. Jack’s origins and motives make room for interpretation, which gives a lasting memory to the character too.

Director Matthew Mahler is the energy that punctuates the tour de force performance. He does this by using editing finesse as well as swift camera movements. Mahler also acts as the composer, crafting an exhilarating electronic score that suits the film’s crazy-scientist-styled tone well. He also makes a smart directorial decision by muting out most of the sound that should be resonating, leaving the score to act as the backdrop rather than boring sounds of equipment clunking and machines roaring.

This film is a well made and mysteriously invigorating…I would provide a genre but What Jack Built must be seen to be believed. If someone told me I was going to be entranced by a short film mostly consisting of a man building an unknown device, I would have called them mad. Yet, Cox and crew achieved something unique with undeniable skill. Watch this for a prime example of what can be achieved in a short with just one strong performance.


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