Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Tangent Room: Decode Reality to Save the Universe

They are the Fab Four of crazy-large number mathematics and theoretical physics. If anyone has the collective brain power to save the world, it would be these four. The problem is, they do not know what the question is, or even have any inkling of the nature of the wider crisis. All they know is that they are locked up together and they are not getting out until they figure out what is going on in screenwriter-director-producer-cinematographer-co-editor-visual-effects-guy Björn Engström’s Tangent Room, which releases today on VOD.

As preeminent scientists, all four eggheads have corresponded with Dr. Wahlstein, but only Sandra Brandt knew him personally. Alas, the other three missed their chance, because the eccentric scientist is now dead, as he himself explains in his introductory video. For some reason, he has brought them together in this grubby conference room, locking them in and cutting them off from the outside world. They will have to figure out the why on their own, but it somehow involves the string of large numbers he rattles off.

To explain the problem they are supposed to solve would be telling, but we will give one hint. Tangent cover similar thematic ground as James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence (still one of the best science fiction films of the last ten years), but it comes at it from a radically different direction. Of course, Tangent was not wholly improvised, as was the case with Coherence, but it is a Swedish production, filmed entirely in English. Lisa Bearpark is actually Swedish-American and Vee Vimolmal is Thai-Swedish, based in London, but it is still impressively smooth, for a multi-lingual, multi-national effort.

All four do a nice job with their respective characters’ tics and foibles, but Vimolmal probably makes the strongest impression, because Wantana initially appears to be the most socially awkward of the quartet, which is quite a feat in itself. Yet, she arguably emerges as the most human.

Although Engström is credited for the film’s digital effects, there is very little visual wizardry in Tangent, to speak of. Yet, that is our favorite brand of science fiction—the kind that relies on ideas rather spectacle and bombast. Frankly, you could probably stage Engström’s screenplay as a theater play, if you added the judicious use of strobe lights, or some such disruptor.

It runs a mere sixty-five minutes, but Tangent is at least as smart as Coherence, Frequencies, Le Cyclotron, and other standout indie science fiction films of the current decade, if not brainier. It also functions quite effectively as a confined space thriller, albeit one that is unusually conversant in cerebral topics, like the Conformal Cyclic Cosmology (CCC). Highly recommended, Tangent Room releases today on VOD platforms.