Prisoner X (2016)

Have I mentioned before that I am a sucker for a good time travel film?

Oh, right.  I have.

Heck, I even enjoy schlocky time travel nonsense like A.P.E.X.  Plot holes and all.

But Prisoner X is not one of those.

A routine car accident leads to the capture of a terrorist crossing the Canadian border with ten pounds of Uranium.  Only it turns out he’s from the future, and they have a far bigger problem on their hands than they thought…

This is a very dark and serious film, one in which the world of 2017 is far more troubled than it is now, with more wars, more rumors of wars, and the constant fear of the mysterious future terrorist Abraham and his 99 followers.  For the last fifteen years, their prisoner, Ramirez has been helping them but somehow they seem no closer to victory than they ever were.

I particularly liked the paranoid feel of the film’s main setting, a CIA facility known as “The Sandbox” where Ramirez is held prisoner – although many of the people working there are beginning to feel that he is holding them prisoner.  For a while, some of the stranger incidents led me to believe that this one was heading in the direction of Tarkovsky’s Solaris (not a surprising possibility considering writer/director Gaurav Seth’s background): instead it goes in a very different direction – and offers us a surprisingly simple answer to those moments.

I’ll concede that I’d guessed what general direction things might be going relatively early in the proceedings, although I let the science fictional possibilities mislead me to large extent – and, I should note that the final resolution gets handled with a certain dark but gleeful excess that takes the film to a very dark place before letting us know the whole truth.

Guarav Seth based the film on Robert Reed’s prize-winning story, “The Truth”, which is probably one of the reasons it is as solid an effort as it is.  It is also interesting to see Julian Richings’ (Ejecta, Cube) rather strange face again – and Forver Knight‘s Nigel Bennett as the President

This is an impressive first SF film from a young director, a dark, slow-burn thriller which avoids the usual time paradoxes of this sort of film.  Instead, it takes on some very disturbing current developments, deals with the darker aspects of the human psyche, explores the possibilities of using time travel as a weapon – and even manages to find a sliver of hope somewhere in there.

Mind you, any time travel film this good gives us hope:  hope that there will be more to come!

 

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