15 Till Midnight:
Lukas Reyes is trapped in a seemingly endless loop between parallel existences, one being occupied by his spouse, Sera, and another being occupied by a relation from another life, Nara. As worlds seem to begin colliding and further bleeding into one another, he finds himself pursued by a group of shadow-men known as “The Knowers”. The common thread between everything being a significance with the time 11:45 – fifteen minutes until midnight.
The phrase “High Concept Sci-Fi” is tossed around quite a bit these days, and usually directed at big budget films like Christopher Nolan’s Inception or Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, films that take the science fiction genre into strange new worlds beyond the typical “Space Opera” genre.
15 Till Midnight is just such a film, breaking down the walls of the big budget Sci-Fi extravaganza and stripping it down to its core, proving that you don’t need a multimillion dollar budget, excessive special effects or A-list actors to tell a powerful story of a man thrust into unbelievable circumstances.
The first half hour of the film is pure build up, introducing us to Lukas Reyes (Brandon Slagle) and his wife Sera (Andrea Chen), and laying the first bricks of the bizarre into the story. Lukas wakes up one morning to find that Sera has seemingly disappeared into thin air, everything she owned is gone, along with the photos of the couple together. Lukas is distraught, but heads out to a bar that night with a friend to drink away his problems, and meets the lovely Nara (Devanny Pinn) who he takes home.
The next morning Lukas wakes up to find that Nara has seemingly moved in overnight, even going so far as to claim that they’ve been married for two years. Lukas and the audience are left to wonder what the hell is going on, and from here on out, the film pulls out all the stops, pulling us through a mind bending, reality warping nightmare of secrets, lies and men in gas masks.
To put it bluntly, I loved 15 Till Midnight from start to finish. The story kept me engaged, the characters felt real and the dialogue never felt wasted or forced in any situation. Brandon Slagle’s performance as Lukas was captivating, giving the viewer a solid anchor to the ever shifting and changing world of the film. To his credit, Slagle not only portrays Lukas, but also the “Evil” Reverse Lukas who makes periodic appearances throughout the film but doesn’t really get a chance to shine until the last twenty or so minutes of the film.
Devanny Pinn’s Nara is an intriguing character, unfortunately she’s out of the story nearly as quickly as she arrives, and giving us little time to truly grow attached to her as a character. However, the raw emotion that Pinn brings to her final scenes is so heart breakingly honest that I found myself relating to her character despite her brief screen time.
The other stand out moment of the film comes near the end when Andrew Roth gives one of the most moving speeches I’ve heard in a sci-fi film in a long time, bringing a human element to what could be a one-dimensional villain.
My only problem with the film had less to do with the film itself and more to do with my screener copy. Darker scenes were blurred and everything had that slightly washed out look of a low resolution Youtube video, but in a testament to not only the script but to the actors and everyone else involved in the film, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for the entirety of the nearly two-hour running time.
15 Till Midnight is the type of film that you pray for as a reviewer and fan of genre cinema, a film with a solid script, acting that actually draws you into the film instead of pulling you out, well thought out cinematography and special effects that don’t distract from the action.