Whistle

Whistle is director Duncan Jones’ first film; it’s a short that appeared as a bonus feature on the DVD of Moon. Charlie Hicks plays Ryan, a man who has moved his family, including his son and wife, Diana, to a remote location where he operates as an assassin who kills his targets by remote controlled missiles that end up looking like gunshots, effectively hiding his tracks. John Shrapnel plays Paul, Ryan’s employer. The short opens with a successful assassination, but the majority of the runtime is more concerned with the strained relationship between Ryan and his wife and son, neither of whom seem happy with the move to a place in the middle of nowhere. The strain reaches a boiling point when a mission goes horribly wrong and Ryan accidentally kills a target along with the target’s child.

The film quite effectively shows Jones’ fully formed fascination with character-based, hard science fiction, while at the same time revealing many of the flaws that nearly crippled Moon as an affecting piece of drama. Even though Jones is concerned with character, he hasn’t yet developed a talent for crafting them, or for situating them in genuinely dramatic or emotional situations that bring out their humanity. There’s certainly a visible leap in quality from the shoestring, juvenile production of Whistle to Moon, but both also seem to find a director looking to find a voice more than a visionary who has the capacity for rejuvenating hard science fiction. Jones’ rather rudimentary cinematic language is a deterrent as well, full of awkward frames, bizarre edits, and a real inability to utilize music in a meaningful way.

That said, as in Moon, the highlight is the cast, which, despite the fact it’s full of no-names, turns in performances that deepen their characters beyond what seems to be on the page. There is the same type of understated naturalism found in Moon, but the detriment of the style is still on display here, namely that it can’t seem to generate any pathos or connection for the audience. One gets the sense watching the film that Jones simply needed more time to flesh the story out as, despite the laid-back pace, it feels narratively rushed while being inert at the same time. The Paradox is due to the fact that Jones seems to be so concerned with moving forward that he doesn’t seem to consider whether or not where he’s moving to is adding to the film, or if where he’s moved from has added anything either.

Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on a young director’s first effort. For an amateur work, Whistle is actually quite accomplished. It’s the type of film that if a random nobody had posted it online, it would certainly have plenty of views and compliments. But if I’m judging it by a professional standard, it can’t help but revealed the cracks and holes. Much like Moon, it wouldn’t be so bad if the film felt like it had any real heart. Once can sense the enthusiasm, but it seems wrapped up more in the sci-fi part of the concept than the characters at the heart of the endeavor. Overall, it’s definitely worth a watch for viewers who enjoyed Moon, and it’s certainly short enough that it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome to any great length.

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About Jonathan Henderson
I'm a dedicated aesthete that's been fascinated with the arts since I was in my early teens. At 13 I saw my first foreign film, which ignited my passion for world cinema. I also discovered the enormous world of music out there and fell in love with everything from death metal to classical. My love for literature has especially grown in recent years, and I've taken up writing (and working really hard at) poetry. But over the past 12 years I've probably taken to film criticism more than anything, and seeing Neon Genesis Evangelion reignited my love for the arts (especially film) and took it to an even higher level. Now I write film reviews for two sites, including this one and Cinelogue. I play poker professionally, and while the world of arts and poker don't seem to converge much, I have taken the deductive and inductive logic that poker requires and attempted to apply it to all the arts as well as my criticism in an attempt to get past the jellybean syndrome ("I like blue jellybeans, you don't, and that's all we can say.").

One Response to Whistle

  1. Pingback: Behind the Camera - Duncan Jones

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