Independent filmmakers are ambitious, that’s almost a prerequisite with independent filmmaking. The best filmmakers seek to topple their limits, and even when they fail, most are still able to come out as fresh as roses, while those who don’t, have reached a point in their career where they can continue building on it. “Saul Goodman” is probably one of the more exceptional films I’ve seen both in the short format, and as a political thriller. And it’s animated, to boot. Sure, you can bring up names like Pixar all you want, but as I’ve seen time and time again, you don’t have to be a world class animator to create world class animation. “Saul Goodman” is a part Mamet, and part Hitchcock espionage thriller that uses the standard computer animation to its benefit.
Director Connell doesn’t entirely seek to wow the audience with high brow animation, and takes that one step back using it to create a rather elaborate story. The animation simply isn’t the selling point behind his political thriller, it’s the material behind it. From the writing, the sheer direction, and of course the surprise plot twist, all of which comes together more like fate through the animation which, in retrospect, feels like a dramatization. “Saul Goodman” combines the elements of your typical neo-noir. Two men, brought together by an inconvenience sit together and chat each other up one night. What results from this random small talk is an utterly engrossing bit of drama that involves an awfully honest old man, discussing politics and conspiracy theories with a rather cynical young man.
Mathematical equations, suicide theories, scandals involving promiscuous pop stars, director Connell takes many elements and just when you think you’ve lost track, he slams every piece together. This, in turn, results in one of the more surprising climaxes in a short film in years. Which is not to say Connell’s animation isn’t top notch. His sequences involving the governments creation of a new color is an accomplishment, but as a writer, I was more in love with what he composed from little resources. Sometimes very little can be so damn effective, and “Saul Goodman” is a beautiful little thriller of Frankenheimer productions nicely wrapped in a thirty minute package. It’s a sheer accomplishment Connell should be proud of.
Hitchcock noted that the anticipation of the bang is much more harrowing than the bang, and Connell holds true to that principle. The brilliance of “Saul Goodman” is not in the pay off, but in the inescapable question of where it’s leading.