Friday, August 04, 2017

Fantasia ’17: Breaker (short)

Here is a scary thought—when humanity starts to integrate itself with digital systems, it will become susceptible to both physical and computer-borne viruses. Just ask the hacker (or so-called breaker) Mach1. When she accidentally downloads a weaponized artificial intelligence, it takes over her body, but they will have to work together to survive the nefarious agents that want to control it in Philippe McKie’s short film, Breaker (trailer here), which screened during the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Blame the junky. Whether she intended harm or not, she is the one who hired Mach1 to break the encrypted file containing the A.I. Much to her panic, the A.I. immediately started deleting files to make room for itself. However, when the program convinces the Breaker bad guys really are following her/them, they start to work together. If Mach1 can get to a port to download the A.I. into the wild internet, it will repay the favor. To survive that long, Mach1 will let her digital parasite control her body when they face-off against the sinister hunter tracking them. It is sort of like Neo’s kung fu sequences in The Matrix, but McKie’s emphasis is on grit rather than razzle dazzle.

Breaker is smart and briskly paced film that makes you think about cerebral topics like the Singularity, earthly issues, such as drug addiction, and the general state of humanity. He creates a world that owes a debt to Bladerunner and most subsequent cyberpunk films, but he makes it feel grungier and more dope-infested. The production design is first-rate, but it is Yuka Tomatsu who makes us care. She is terrific as Mach1, no matter who happens to be controlling her body at the moment.

McKie manages to combine a lot of action with social and scientific speculation in a mere eleven minutes. It is easy to see how this narrative or another story in Mach1’s near-future Tokyo world could be expanded to feature length. Regardless, it is a very cool short in its own right, showcasing the impressive range of Tomatsu. Highly recommended, Breaker will soon screen at the 2017 Action on Film Festival, following its Canadian premiere at this year’s Fantasia.