Premise: A desperate young man possessing special powers clashes with a militarized police force after committing a petty crime.
Review: Every now and again, short film needs to flex its muscles and go full blockbuster. Not in a brainless, all-spectacle sense, but in a sense that still highlights societal issues and where those issues can potentially lead. But rather than telling a story in an understated way (which still has great merit) a blockbuster opts for impact in every sense and this short film, itself a teaser for a full length feature, shows that short film has the power to do exactly that. Writers Jeff Chan and Chris Paré have put together what effectively acts as an opening to a much bigger story, but have gone to great lengths to make sure that you invest not just in the concept but in the characters and their situation.
With super-powered individuals having become commonplace in this near future Los Angeles, many of them use their abilities to score jobs in manual labour as finding steady work has become increasingly more difficult. A theme immediately emerges of a powerful majority existing at the mercy of a manipulative and exploitative minority. Militarised police also do not take long to make an appearance, complete with aerial surveillance and drones. While this is a fictional sci-fi premise, the unnerving realisation of how close this is to reality stands front and centre in our minds as we see news clips of young kids being gunned down by the police with little or no warning, or our main characters being harassed by police for being in a rich neighbourhood that clearly is not theirs.
Putting a human face to these issues is the protagonist Taylor Reed played by The Flash’s Robbie Amell. The young, but already world-weary Taylor is dealing with supporting a family with almost nothing from a very early age, a situation many families can sadly identify with. Together with his friend Freddie, he jostles to find work from contractors looking to pay below the going rate, all the while resisting the temptation to use his powers in the service of less savoury characters who would pay a lot more. The crux of this story is how honest people trying to make a living are pushed into becoming criminals, virtually through no fault of their own, because the system makes obtaining an honest living for the working classes increasingly more difficult.
The usual blockbuster elements of effects and action are brought to bear in service of highlighting this concept rather than being there for their own sake. In order to fully appreciate the harsh consequences of committing one infraction of the law in a society with a militarised police force, we need to see a police force to be feared. With co-writer Chan taking the director’s chair, we see a powerful and effective application of airborne drones and drone officers, backing up human officers, one of whom delights in being able to wield so much power over people more powerful than him.
Chan’s writing partner, Paré also pulls double duties by joining the team of producers, which includes Robbie Amell and cousin Stephen Amell, best known as ‘Arrow’s Oliver Queen, as executive producers. The producers do an impressive job in pulling together a cast that are not only well known (which includes Sung Kang of the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise) but are more than capable of carrying the dramatic weight of this story. Chan wisely uses the considerable resources on display here to assist and compliment the story, rather than forcing the story to accommodate the special effects.
More impressive than the effects that are on show here is the fact that a considerable amount of character building is done in the ten minute run time of the film before the circumstances of Taylor and Freddie bring the situation to a head, leading to the gripping climax of this film, which hopefully will lead to the opening of a blockbuster that we will definitely be queuing up to see. Code 8 is a stunning social highlight that rewards your investment in very real people and their all-too-familiar problems, with a thrilling climax that will definitely leave you wanting more.
Studio: Code 8 Year: 2016 Genre: Sci-Fi/Action Duration: 10 mins Suitability: Mature - Scenes of violence & language