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What’s it About?

Seven strangers find themselves unwitting participants in a U.S. government evacuation program gone horribly wrong.

“Chariot”

Directed by Brad Osborne

By Vic

Brad Osborne (Killing JFK) directs and edits “Chariot, ” a micro budget indie thriller which was written by “DragonBall Z” scribe Eric Vale. It stars “Enterprise” vet Anthony Montgomery as Cole, a cap and flannel wearing Trucker who wakes up on an airplane with 6 other passengers who are disoriented, confused and anxious since they have no clue how they got on board or why there are there. It is an immediately and interesting set up even though we have been here before in one fashion or another: “The Langoliers” comes to mind almost automatically. Cole, who is the most approachable of the small band of people, seems to take charge right way. He goes from one person to another to try and get answers and to asses each of their situations and backgrounds.

The passengers all seem to be of diverse backgrounds. Cole, the trucker and then there is an IT specialist, a linguist, a housewife, the Secretary of Transportation, a secret agent and even a black ops woman who poses as a contractor for the DHS. Cole believes he is the exception to the group since he is just a lowly truck driver with no special type of background or training. Vale’s story moves at a precise clip and as we get familiar with the characters, things get even more oblique and mysterious. Some folks are not what they say they are. Some are prone to fits of anger, violence and panic. When a cell phone is conveniently found, the band are able to use it to discover that the United States may be under attack. Some passengers believe the news report and others have their doubts.

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They discover that they may have evacuated because of their particular backgrounds. The project, called “Chariot” was meant to have these civilians whisked away to safety but things when apparently wrong and they desperately try to get the pilots to open the cockpit door even if it means getting shot at. Vale and Osborne deliver some interesting scenes of fear, paranoia and even humor within the small scoped parameters of the story and they airplane.

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The entire film is seen through the despair of the victims and we only see and hear what they see and hear. Which is not the most original tactic but none the less agreeable because this is a small picture. We have only the interior of the airplane and characters to work with (The first shot of what lies outside of the airplane comes in about an hour in). Vale fleshes them all out well with tight little scenes of characters talking to and exploring each other’s pasts and motivations.

Osborne’s film is not without some nicely edited and admirable bits of confrontations. At time they all have to work together to solve different issues and other times they are viciously fighting and arguing with each other. This dynamic is ok to watch unfold but the film’s constraints sometimes becomes a road block to the story. Montgomery’s Cole is a grizzled voiced good guy among some very iffy people and even when he doesn’t want to, he keeps order among the powder keg passengers.

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Discovering the depth of some of them is not too distracting since Vale makes them somewhat interesting. But it is through their actions that Osborne’s movie becomes watchable and mysterious. Things take a turn for the worse when one of their own tries to prevent the opening of the cockpit door.

What the film gets right is the exploration and evolution of the mystery. Like an episode of LOST, we get only small morsels at a time here and there and with such a small budget, limited resources and no big names in the cast, the revelations need to work and work well. Some work ok and others appear derivative in places but as things develop, Cole finds himself having to rally the troops but also keep them in check.

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The closer to the finale we get the more the movie appears like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone” or more appropriately, “The Outer Limits.” Osborne’s movie has a staged vibe about it that is not all together hokey but a little bit strained. I must give Vale kudos for trying to add some depth to the characters with some smart and insightful dialog. Osborne’s direction is proficient and suited for the material.

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The ending is an all together different beast, though. After a big revelation, one character named Genevieve (Michelle Sherrill) is cornered and forced to explain the situation. It isn’t quite the twist we expected and unfortunately, it goes belly up in terms of surprise and ingenuity. Too much is thrust on the viewer and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes in disapproval from the proceedings.

Another revelation regarding Cole and his final feat is also a stretch. It was as if Vale and Osborne just said; “Hey let’s connect every dot and cross every T!” It was kind of a cop out, in my opinion, which made “Chariot” appear as if cheating using  sentimental manipulations. The film isn’t a total loss, though. It’s a spunky little drama / thriller that tries very hard to impress despite being very low budget fare.

You can’t really go wrong with at least one watch of “Chariot” on a Saturday afternoon if you want to kill some time but unfortunately the abrupt ending and tacked on plot manipulations prevents it from being very memorable and unique.

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