Most movies aim to provide a vehicle for the audience to live a moment in time vicariously through the characters.
Director Tim Smit does this literally in first person in the tense and entertaining Science Fiction action thriller Kill Switch to tell the story of Will Porter (Dan Stevens) piloting an interdimensional pod from Earth to an echo universe simulacrum.
There’s been a dimensional imbalance caused by a new device meant to siphon energy across the multiverse and Will must get to the other side to repair it. The echo world has been devastated and the trip from the landing site to the project tower is a gauntlet of firefight challenges from an armed resistance and corporate drone attack ships.
“The movie is so interesting visually and so well paced that a plot more sophisticated would be distracting.”
Except for the First Person Shooter (FPS) conceit, the rest of the film is pretty much off the shelf boilerplate. There’s the powerful corporation that moves more like a government, reminiscent of Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation. There’s the small family with a kid who has a medical condition that compels the main character to sign up in order to afford the best treatment. There’s the shiny scary science project that is meant to save the world (in this case to provide limitless free energy) but goes bad because messing with mother nature.
None of that is bad. The movie is so interesting visually and so well paced that a plot more sophisticated would be distracting.
A lot of exposition is packed into the FPS framing device using the heads up displays of Will’s suit. That’s good nerdy fun, particularly watching his medical feedback system track his degrading health status as he is pummeled by explosions and other twists of fate. Not being a cyborg like Hardcore Henry (the other recent first person perspective film that comes to mind), Will takes the damage and suffers as events unfold. The perspective switches from the immersive FPS to a more traditional third person camera enough that the FPS doesn’t feel contrived or awkward. It also signals when the action is in the echo world by showing the echo only in first person. That’s a well considered choice by Smit: a story told fully in first person would be frustrating for the audience. We’re used to being the fly on the wall.
“90 minutes of kinetic edge-of-your-seat fun.”
The cast breathes believable life into this quick tour of hell. Dan Stevens, known primarily as Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey, throws off his English accent and commits to this story in a strong performance. Bérénice Marlohe was a Bond girl and still serves in that capacity here as the sleek gorgeous fixer for the Alterplex corporation.
With it’s gaming look and feel Kill Switch may not be for everyone. It’s not deeply cerebral cinema by any means but it is 90 minutes of kinetic edge-of-your-seat fun.
Kill Switch (2017) Directed by Tim Smit. Written By Charlie Kindinger, Omid Nooshin. Starring Dan Stevens, Bérénice Marlohe, Charity Wakefield
7 out of 10