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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fresh Short Film "Valor's Dawn" An Action Packed Clash of Two Cultures

"VALOR'S DAWN" (2016)
Genre: Action
Length- 13:41
Company:  Paleo North Media

Rewind the clock back to 50 B.C.  An invading Roman force surprises Celtic chief Ambiorix (Reed Clare) while he's out one afternoon, and during the ensuing battle, his young son Conall (Jake Rideout) is killed.  In the aftermath, Ambiorix must decide what he wants -- does he want revenge?  Is revenge worth it when it will not give him back Conall?  Is death more palatable?

This might be the story on the surface, but what "Valor's Dawn" really is, deep down, is  a case of a thoughtful premise attempting to merge action packed visuals with genuine thematic depth.

So how's it fare?

INVADERS

Written and directed by Clare and Mike Donis, "Valor's Dawn" is a meditation on ethics -- it's the story of Ambiorix and Conall, a father and son practicing swordfighting and fishing, in general all the tasks Conall will need to be a successful man in their culture.

Conall, frustrated that he can't score a hit during their sparring, attempts to sneak up on his father and strike from behind.  Never attack from behind, Ambiorix says.  "It's dishonorable."  The idea of honor, and what is right and wrong, and in what situations, comes up again and again in "Valor's Dawn", ultimately culminating with the Roman warrior, Eidys (Craig Blair) killing Conall to gain the upper hand in a battle he was more properly waging with Ambiorix.  The boy's death was unnecessary, but it did clinch the Roman victory.

Which brings up the immediate question -- how does one justify having "honor" and treating your enemy with respect when that enemy appears to deserve none, and in fact shows no mercy even to children?

I'm not entirely sure what happened at the end . . . was it all a fantasy in Ambiorix's regretful head?  Is honor, for Ambiorix, dead?  The title of the film, "Valor's Dawn", says no, but the events of the film seem to suggest otherwise.

THE FILM ITSELF

All interesting thoughts which are treated honestly and with subtlety throughout the script, but without a solid and entertaining movie to back them up, it's all just rambling.  Fortunately, Clare's film features a lot to like on the outside as well as on the inside.

First to talk about are the impressive visuals.  98% of the film takes place outdoors, and we have some seriously gorgeous photography.  Bruce William Harper is credited as the Director of Photography, and I'm giving him a tip of my hat here because WOW -- the lake shots, the forest, the sky, all of it look absolutely beautiful.  Ambiorix's home truly looks like an Eden-esque paradise.

Clare's directing is at its best in the fight scenes.  Thanks to a very strong choreography team in Christopher Mott, Dan Zisson, Clare himself and Ray Rodriguez, we have some really strong fight scenes that feel spontaneous and brutal.  During the emotional scenes, I wasn't entirely sold on some of his directorial choices -- the fade outs and slow motion bits in particular felt forced.  But overall, he's got a good eye for action and I enjoyed his work here.

CONCLUSION

The production values of "Valor's Dawn" are top notch -- Clare's making use of some really incredible locations and equipment to create a film that is unique in many ways.  It's not often you see a period piece -- especially a PERIOD period piece, if you know what I mean . . . a period piece set THIS far back in time.  The costumes, for instance, look incredible, and while the battles are understandably small, they are no less intense.

This was an incredible labor of love on the part of Reed Clare and his team, and what you are getting with "Valor's Dawn" is something you don't see every day.

That, in and of itself, is reason enough to check it out.  What's even better is that's quite good.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  Clare's strong subtext pushes "Valor's Dawn" beyond simple action territory, but as far as story is concerned, we don't have much going on -- we've got a battle, and a framing shot in which Ambiorix is an old man, remembering, but that's it.  The conclusion doesn't wrap things up in a satisfactory way.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  Really good visuals, particularly in the exterior shots, and excellent fight choreography.
Editing: 4 / 5.  Navin Ramaswaran handled editing duties and Luke Bellissimo is credited as the digital colourist, and both did great jobs.  The film has great pacing.  I did have issues with the fade outs and the slow motion bits during the emotional scenes, but I think that's directorial choices more than editorial ones.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  John Gzowski gives us a full fledged score that sounds big and epic.  Maryem Tollar lends vocals to the mix.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Clare looks the part and delivers his old world-y sounding lines with aplomb.  Blair doesn't have much to do other than grit his teeth and swing a sword.  Rideout debuts as a promising child actor.

Final Grade: 3.4 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the trailer for "Valor's Dawn" at its official site 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!