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Friday, June 5, 2015

"At All Costs", Smart Thriller From Newcomer Yann Danh, Challenges Viewers With Content and Metaphor

"AT ALL COSTS" (2014)
Genre: Thriller
Length- 15:18
Company: Wallpaper Productions

Daniel (Franck Sarrabas), Alex (Simon Frenay) and Josh (Pascal Henault) kidnap Jacques Mercier (Bruno Henry), their former employer, in an attempt to ransom Thierry Cortal (Marc Duret), a politician.  When Cortal refuses to negotiate for the release of Mercier, they are forced to take more desperate measures to secure their money . . .

A finger there, a bludgeoning there -- you know, whatever it takes.

Also, one last note before we get into the meat of this review: those masks our leads wear . . . they're downright creepy, and they make for an intense looking poster!

A THRILLER DONE RIGHT

"At All Costs" is an award winning French short film from director Yann Danh, a newcomer to the filmmaking scene who has been turning heads with this short since its initial release a year ago.

Now then, one caveat: I had to watch the film with English subtitles, as I don't speak French.  I also had trouble with picking out people from the credits for the same reason.  So, my apologies to the extended crew here -- they did an amazing job with this film, and I wish I could credit who did what like I normally do with my reviews.  Regardless, a stellar job from an incredibly talented group of people.

UNDERPINNING TERROR

The production values here are top notch.  Every shot looks gorgeous and on par with a movie a million times its budget.  It doesn't hurt taht every thespian on display turns in a solid performance -- and that's particularly noteworthy because the characters, as written, are pretty bland.

Random thought: Sarrabas also resembles a young Frank Langella -- both are impressive actors.

Character issues taken in stride, the script as written by Danh and Mahi Bena, is a brilliant indictment of the modern world's broken economy and justice systems.  If you really think about what's going on in this film, "At All Costs" might be an entertaining thriller, but it's also an examination of several dualities: good and evil, terrorism and tyranny, and sadism and helplessness.

Do NOT miss "At All Costs" -- or "A Tout Prix", as it's called in France!

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 4 / 5.  The parallels between those that are corrupt and those that are supposedly the "good guys" are smart and add serious moral complexity to what could have been a by-the-numbers thriller.  The finale had a touch of Quentin Tarantino in it.  The only things keeping me from giving this film a perfect score are, first of all, it felt like we could have used some more character development.  Take the sniper (Fatima Adoum), for instance -- we never get a feel for who she is.  Also, I couldn't understand what was wrong with Mercier -- he has to take medication periodically, what is it for, some kind of severe epilepsy?  The whole "get meds or die" concept comes off as cheesy and has been done before so many times, but I dealt with it because the film as a whole is so good.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Danh's smart direction pulls in some beautiful shots, both outdoor and indoors.   I wanted to see more of the building where they were hiding -- what a location!  He also knows when to show violence and when to imply it.  The butt of the gun sequence (I don't want to spoil anything by being more specific) was choreographed perfectly and it had me wincing.
Editing: 5 / 5.  Simply put, there's no way this film could have been edited any better.  I loved the introductory shots, with the simulated TV screen bleeps and bloops.  The whole film, from start to finish, looks like a big budget film.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Loved the mood, the ambient stuff, the music . . . it all compliments the film.   I want a copy of this soundtrack!
Acting: 4 / 5.  None of the roles had much depth, but each of our leads owns their role and plays it to the hilt.

Final Grade: 4.2 / 5.  

Don't forget to check out "At All Costs" on Vimeo and follow the creators on Facebook!



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!