The Convict is one of those rare pieces of minimalist cinema that says a lot without having to open its mouth. This is a very suspenseful drama about what a man is willing to do when he has nothing to lose.
What’s It All About
A convict has escaped jail and is on the run. He is driven by a single goal, to see his wife who is sick. Wounded and desperate he relentlessly pursues his one goal and will seemingly do whatever it takes to reach it.
The short opens in dramatic fashion. We are given a look at a window, a view we are fixated on in silence until it is suddenly smashed and we are introduced to the convict ‘David Eller’. These first few moments really pull you into this piece, such a dramatic opening and introduction to our character really captivated me. My attention was immediately glued to the screen and it stayed that way for the whole twenty minutes of the short.
David, The Convict, is a man of few words. Throughout the who of the short he only manages to string together a few sentences, talking to a shop clerk, a man named Buddy, who gives him a ride and his mother-in-law, who is less than pleased to see him. The character is clearly a man of actions over words. Has his incarceration and isolation from the real world effected his social skills? Why was he sent to jail in the first place? How long is his sentence? These are questions that we ask. The fact that we don’t know much about who the character is or what he is capable of only amps up the suspense. We have know idea what he could do next.
Writer and director Mark Battle has given us a real masterpiece. This short has been cleverly planned out and expertly executed to best dramatic effect. The suspense we feel never drops and we have no idea where the story will go. Battle does a superb job of telling his story. We are sparingly drip fed information about this character, only the minimal amount need to satisfy the plot. For instance a flashback informs us that ‘The Convict’ has been behind bars for 14 years and seems to be a reformed man, having completed a number of classes and two degrees as well as dealing with his anger management issues. However, an unforgiving chairman of the parole board refuses to allow him back into society and informs him he needs to “serve his time”, leaving us to ponder what crime he committed in the first place.
Looking a little deeper into this character gives us indications of what he is capable of. When a small child enters into the bathroom while David is attempting to remove his handcuffs showed that he was willing to kill, or at least threaten the child. Later in the film during a scuffle with Buddy in his car David shows us he is willing to kill. These are all signs that he wasn’t fit to be in society and the chairman of the parole board was right.
On the other hand we are shown that Davids only goal is to get to the bedside of his sick wife. We find this out during the flashback scene. At the climax of the film we are shown David use his gun as a way to get in to see his wife and when his mother-in-law informs him he that she is phoning the police he isn’t concerned, his only thought is being with his sick wife, that is all he is interested in.
This short film is almost a character study of The Convict as we try to work out, during these twenty minutes, what the convict is capable of, what is his goal, what lengths he will go to achieve it, and what was his crime. It makes you ask yourself how far will someone go to get what they want? If someone gets desperate enough will they go to any length to achieve what they want?
The cinematography of the piece was another masterpiece. The muted and monotone style of this really help to highlight certain aspects such as the deep red blood on the kitchen cupboards and bathroom sink, the orange prison jumpsuit and the flowers. Some of the close up shots really made this short more intimate and highlight the desperation, fear and remorse. I also enjoyed the wider shots, including an excellent one of David walking along a snowy roadside. I loved the snowy setting, it really brought in a new element to this piece as David was attempting to make his way, injured and on foot, only adding to his desperation.
I also feel it important I mention Nicole Celso who did a amazing job on the make up and effects. Working in short film always presents challenges working within time constraints and budgets but Nicole did some brilliant work, particularly with the bullet shot wound to David, it was extremely realistic and very well done.
Dean Temple played Davied Eller, The Convict. Dean is a very talented actor and delivers a flawless performance here. Dean Temple gives us a glorious glimpse into the grimness of the character as he attempts to make his way back to his wife. The film focuses entirely on his journey to get to his wife’s bedside and Dean takes us through a whirlwind of emotions. We never know which way to feel about his character, many of the details of his background are kept from us and we can only judge him on the actions he takes throughout the film. This is very well balanced by Dean, a flawed character who you want to root for. I have a feeling great things lie ahead for Dean.
Travis Mitchell played Buddy. This character had only a minor part in the short but Travis made the most of his part and really delivered using his facial expressions to tell us what his mind was thinking.
Michael Anthony Coppola played Parole Board Chairman. Again this was another minor role but Michael certainly made his mark. The way in which he delivered his lines really sunk into the skin. I could feel the emotion and anger he felt at the thought of letting David on parole.
Suzanne Bryan played Mary. Mary was the mother of Davids wife. She gave a solid performance. I saw genuine fear in her eyes when David showed up at her door.
The Convict really delivered a memorable short for all the right reasons. The standout performance of Dean Temple as the title character really helped drive this film forward. The minimal approach to this short ensured we were solely focusing on the story of David and his journey. We had just the right amount action, drama and suspense to keep us on the edge of our seats. I highly recommend to everyone to watch this short film.
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