THE SHIPMENT **** Canada 2018 Dir: Bobby Bala. 27 mins
Ambition is not lacking in writer-director Bobby Bala’s Canadian short: the dialogue-free first five minutes begins with a breath-taking establishing shot worthy of a big budget major studio spectacular. It never quite tops this initial transition, but does establish its world, characters and story arc in a concise, engaging way.
Mandy Patinkin-lookalike Aleks Paunovic is an ex slave trader desperately trying to make ends meet as an interplanetary cargo hauler. He’s running out of money and fuel, and most of all needs to provide for his beloved daughter (Ishana Bala) in the absence of a maternal figure. Courtesy of a “cargo rat”, he is given an opportunity of a $700,000 transporting job that regrettably invokes his earlier, regretted career and involves a catch of slaves accompanied by a towering “mutant” co-pilot. Bala’s film has terrific visual effects, impressive creatures (notably the eel-like parasite) and appealing performances by the handsome Paunovic and the empathetic Ishana Bala. The core villain, as portrayed by Omari Newton, is a little underwhelming and mannered, and although it’s refreshing to see a movie in this genre with such heart (and a weepie resolution) it does at times feel a tad lacking in high-stakes tension and drama. Nonetheless, the characters are worth rooting for, it’s never mean-spirited and, as a visual calling card for its filmmaker, it scores high.
Review by Steven West