A missing person investigation turns out to be bigger than expected.
Agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) is assigned to investigate the disappearance of the wife and son of Jackson Pritchard (Milo Ventimiglia). She heads to the town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota, where she meets with local Sheriff Gruenwell (Jonathan Frakes) and is partnered with local cop Colt (Shawn Ashmore). Pritchard is from an infamous local religious family and his property is covered in lethal booby traps. When they arrive on his property, they find that he claims that his family was abducted by angels. However, it soon becomes apparent that he might not be as crazy as he seems, because it turns out someone is actually coming down from the heavens.
So, this is the first film that Clay Staub has written and directed. Since Staub is known as a second unit director working on most of Zack Snyder’s major motion pictures, it should be no surprise that he is pretty solid behind the camera. The shots are well done throughout the movie and the effects are just the right kind of showy when they’re on screen. The film is pretty dark throughout, but it matches the town that it’s going for. It makes sense that this is the guy that Snyder calls to do his second unit work (which is usually anything that doesn’t involve lead actors). Unfortunately, writing is not featured prior to this on his resume, and the movie suffers from it a little bit. The script is mostly expository, which renders some of the great shots and set design in the movie redundant. Additionally, the pacing on the story is not great. There are about 6 major reveals in the film, but several of them aren’t given enough time to really have the impact that they should.
The acting in the film is solid, but I will say that Ventimiglia really brings some solid characterization to a role that could very easily have come off as cliche or even just underwritten. That’s the big problem with the film, honestly. The idea behind it is great, but there were, if anything, too many ideas and not enough done to expand on any of them. It leads to a lot of interesting “twists,” but, again, they don’t really land as hard as they could. The one thing I can say is that it raises a ton of interesting questions, particularly about the intersection between religion and science fiction and about the nature of sentience.
Overall, not a bad film, nowhere near what the 24% on Rotten Tomatoes would suggest, but it just isn’t quite as good as it should be.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.