Anti Matter from writer/director Keir Burrows is a science fiction thriller with an intriguing premise and a fantastic payoff at the end, assuming you make it to the end.
Ana (Yaiza Figueroa) is an Oxford Ph.D. student experimenting in phase shifting or “teleportation.” The movie starts with Ana successfully phasing a single electron. Ana soon brings in her partner, Nate (Tom Barber-Duffy), and together they phase a molecule. Moving on to bigger and better things, they phase a marble, then a Rubix cube and so on. But can they safely phase a living creature?
They soon discover that safely phasing a living creature requires massive amounts of server processing and data storage, Ana and Nate turn to Liv (Philippa Carson), campus expert computer hacker. Liv exploits a security hole in local servers on campus to provide the processing power necessary.
“…Ana’s life begins to unravel in the outside world.”
With Liv’s assistance, the team successfully phase a silk worm and then a cat. Emboldened with dreams of changing the world, Ana is ready for the final test: phasing a human being. After drawing straws, Ana is chosen to be their first phase subject. As soon as the switch is flipped, something goes horribly wrong.
Jump ahead two weeks; Ana awakens in her apartment with no memory of the outcome of the experiment or the events of the last two weeks. When she returns to the lab, Nate and Ana are acting peculiar. They are standoffish and secretive. They refuse to give any details about what happened during the experiment.
Frustrated by her partners, Ana’s life begins to unravel in the outside world. The university is asking probing questions about her experiments. The local police are investigating the computer surge they caused, which happens to be illegal. And a mysterious stranger breaks into her apartment and steals her laptop and research.
“Anti Matter has great potential to be an amazing science fiction thriller…”
Anti Matter has great potential to be an amazing science fiction thriller. Writer/director Keir Burrows starts with a solid set-up. Burrows writes exceptional scientific dialogue about teleportation and builds the right amount of tension questioning Ana’s ultimate safety.
I have to commend Keir Burrows for a well thought-out ending. It is amazing and makes sense. Burrows clearly thought a lot about the mystery he presents and masterfully pays it off. As with any good noir thriller, once the facts are revealed, you forced to retrace every step from the beginning.
The problem with Anti Matter is everything between the setup and the reveal. The film’s second act takes well over an hour to muddle through. Burrows includes the requisite elements of a thriller: friends you can’t trust, mysterious figures appearing in the wrong places and a good mental breakdown. But these moments exist more to create tension and anxiety for the audience than to act as pieces to a puzzle ready to snap together at any moment.
“What the hell is going on?”
While watching the second act, I kept asking myself, “What the hell is going on?” and “Why does it feel like I’m going nowhere?” The events of second act should not be absolutely impossible to interpret without the final reveal. I like to engage in the mystery of the film along with the heroine. Otherwise, it’s no fun to watch.
Fortunately, Yaiza Figueroa is charismatic as Ana. She is a joy to watch, and her solid performance captures our attention through the second act. Tom Barber-Duffy and Philippa Carson are also good and even better in hindsight after the reveal. That said, it is dangerous for any filmmaker to frustrate their audiences before they have a chance to get to the end. Anti Matter’s ending is worth waiting for.
Anti Matter (2016) Written and directed by Keir Burrows. Starring: Yaiza Figueroa, Tom Barber-Duffy, and Philippa Carson.
3 1/2 out of 5