Monday, March 04, 2019

SIFF’s SFF SFF ’19: Hyperlight (short)

Emiliana Newton is in a Gravity-like position, mysteriously drifting in space, but her partner is even worse off. Somehow, it all involves the new faster-than-light space-faring technology they have been tasked with test-driving. Their voyage takes on aspects of Interstellar and The Twilight Zone, yet it all fits within the seventeen minutes of Nguyen-Ahn Nguyen’s Hyperlight, which screens as part of the second session of the Seattle International Film Festival’s Science Fiction& Fantasy Short Film Festival.

Somehow, through some tricky navigation, Newton is able to pilot her lifepod and that of her unconscious crewmate, Philip Maeda back to their ship, the USEF Solis. Of course, Newton has a lot of questions to answer, like just why were they floating in space, but her first priority is to revive the comatose Maeda. Rather complicating matters, the ship’s computer does not acknowledge he is alive, even though Maeda is visibly breathing. Soon (because this is a short), Newton will start to get some answers that hold some decidedly Einstein-worthy implications.

Hyperlight is a wickedly smart sf film that is probably an even richer viewing experience if you read the extensive backstory on the film’s website. Regardless, the big revelation makes perfect sense within the context of the film. It ingeniously exploits big picture concepts, but the cast is also quite strong. It is hard to really describe the chemistry between Newton and Maeda, for spoilery reasons, but Jeananne Goossen and Peter Shinkoda are both terrific portraying them during their cosmically existential crisis. Shinkoda also ought to lend the film extra fan cred, since he has recurred on series like Man in the High Castle, Daredevil, and Falling Skies.

It is pretty amazing to see the level of visual effects a short film like Hyperlight can realize, when the filmmakers sufficiently care. In this case, Nguyen had quite an extensive effects team (the closing credits are pretty long for a short), who produced some absolutely stunning sequences involving the lifepods maneuvering around each other and through space.

Considering how much background worldbuilding Nguyen did for Hyperlight, it would only be fitting if he could expand it into a full-length feature. If this was produced a proof-of-concept film, he has definitely proven he can execute the kind of effects that will do his vision justice, while finding clever science-based twists and turns, to keep things interesting. Highly recommended as a cool science fiction film in its own right. Hyperlight screens this Saturday (3/9) during SIFF’s SFF SFF ‘19.