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Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Finish Well" a Flawed But Striking War Short Film

"FINISH WELL"
Length: 19:14
Company: Berean Productions
Website: Official

Two young boys play in a field, chasing each other and shooting pretend bad guys. 

Fast forward several years.  Now they ARE soldiers, and instead of shooting pretend things, they're shooting real people.

Cue gun shots and blood.

Let's dig into this little flick, shall we?

I BELIEVE THE WORD IS "WOW"

"Finish Well" has peerless production values.  The quality of video and sound, the editing, the direction -- everything is rock solid and I for one appreciated the frantic pace and almost Saving Private Ryan shaky cam during the initial firefight. 

I am curious about how they accomplished such a grounded show with what is no doubt a non-existent budget.  The guys and/or girls who made this film are tremendous filmmakers in their own right, and if they're given the proper budget, I believe they are definitely going places.

ANONYMOUS INTERNET

Unfortunately, I have no idea who they are.  I know the name of the main movie maker, and it's Justus McCranie, and the soaring music is written by Kevin MacLeod.  There are no beginning or ending credits on this film, so everyone else who contributed will have to go namelessly through this review.

Stand up and take responsibility for making a solid picture.  I want to know who you all are so I can watch for more films from you, because "Finish Well" is that good.

Now, that being said, let's get into some of the things that detracted somewhat from my viewing experience.

RE-WRITE THIS

As far as the story is concerned -- and particularly considering the fact that "Finish Well" is nearly twenty minutes long -- not much is going on in this picture.  Two kids play together, years later they are in combat with a team, several people die, and then the finale plays out. 

The only bits of character development we see are short scenes with each main character hanging out with their girlfriend or wife and/or kid, and then they walk away to go into the military, and their significant other and/or kid watches them go, looking sad.

This would be an effective if not particularly original scene if it were done once, but it's literally done three times.

Then there's the Christian element of the film.   The title, and the only words of dialogue spoken in this film, are referring to a Biblical quote from 2nd Timothy, but I couldn't care less about that.  I'm here to review a movie.  In order to enjoy an action movie, for instance, I shouldn't have to already know about a book written thousands of years ago. 

As it is, I did read the quote on McCranie's website, but in my opinion, "Finish Well" does not particularly illustrate this quote visually, and I am still a little confused how someone who is apparently as religious as the soldier in the film would in fact enlist to become a soldier and kill people. 

And second, how does getting shot and then deciding not to shoot the enemy (a fortunate decision, as it turns out) finishing anything well?

I did like how the "bad guy" turns out to be just another kid stuck in the war.  This is the core message of the film, the fact that kids are kids are kids, and that the other side's kids are just as human and just as loved and capable of loving others as our own are.

All in all, "Finish Well" works because the individual scenes are shot impeccably, and the actors, even without dialogue, are more than capable of delivering their roles.

Overall Scores:

Writing: 2 / 5.  The writing is the only failing part of the movie.  It's very basic, there's not much character development and honestly, the intended Biblical message is lost in translation.
Directing: 4 / 5.  A truly solid show with clever shots and precise camerawork.  It's clear the director has every character in every frame exactly the way he or she wanted.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Some of the slow motion was a bit much, but overall the pacing of the film was spot on and no scenes felt too short.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Really impressive score from Kevin MacLeod.  Soaring at times, emotional at others, the music is the dialogue we are missing in the script.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Everyone did a pretty solid job acting.  The main character who is shot has one expression, and he looks mildly freaked out the entire time.  I can gloss over that though because for the most part people do their job.

Final Grade: 3 / 5.  An affecting film that stretches on a little long, but it's a nice anti-war picture with a positive message, all on a small budget.  The production values are incredible.

To watch the full length film and get in touch with Berean Productions, check out their official site and their YouTube page!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!