Saturday, August 31, 2013

Film Review: Vehicle 19

Vehicle 19 is a new movie starring Paul Walker (Fast and Furious, The Lazerous Project) that didn't really get the kind of prerelease advertising campaign it might have deserved.  Of course the lack of immediate popularity adds a little bit to it's charm, so maybe that's for the best.  Now I'm not going to say anything about it right now except for the 'back of DVD' equivalent synopsis.

Vehicle 19 is all about Michael, an alleged criminal from the US who goes to visit his ex-wife who works in foreign affairs at the US embassy in South Africa.  Little does he know, he's about to be catapulted head first into the middle of an international human trafficker's plot to murder a woman who's only crime is wanting to expose the truth.

Now if you want to see this movie without having any preconceptions about it, see it now and don't read any further.  I'm not going to go into spoilers yet, but the next thing I'm about to talk about may take away slightly from the unexpected cool-factor.  You've been warned.

So this film had a lot of good qualities about it.  You know, good special effects, significantly above par acting (mostly), and a good - albeit more simple - plot.  However the thing that really makes Vehicle 19 special and as awesome as it is, is the camera.  Oh there were a lot of cool angles?  Yeah there were a few, but that's not what I'm talking about. Good use of focusing?  Yeah a lot of that too, but still not what I'm talking about.  What I'm talking about is the fact that the whole film simultaneously takes place in two locations and in dozens.  Come on Nick, what are you on about now?  I'm going to start with the second of the two locations and work back for dramatic effect here.  The second location is a parking lot, and there is one shot there.  The camera zooms out and then tilts up.  Yup, that's the whole second and final shot of the movie.  It lasts about 20 seconds.  Now as for the first and (one could argue) only other location, it's the inside of a minivan.  That's right, the entire movie save 20 seconds at the end takes place in a minivan.  So now you see what I meant by simultaneously two locations and dozens.  Walker's character drives around for the whole movie and the camera never leaves that van except for that final shot.

It is not very common anymore to find films that both do something really awesomely artistic like that, and are actually good.  The first example of a similar movie which comes to mind that was really quite good as well is a movie called "Cellular" starring Chris Evans where essentially the entire film revolves around one phone call.  It's awesome, I love that movie, you should go watch that if you like Vehicle 19.  Even if you don't, it's different enough that you might still like Cellular.  Sounds like I have to do a Cellular review too huh?  I'll get on that I suppose.  Anywho, moving right along...

Having the whole movie take place in a minivan might seem like it would get tedious very quickly, but it is done in such a way that sometimes you actually forget you're watching everything happen from inside a little 6x12 foot space (or however big a minivan is).  Although the camera stays in the van, the characters do not share the same restriction, which is part of the reason it works so well.  There is plenty of interaction with people outside the van, but it's all received from inside.

As I mentioned before, the film also makes great use of angles.  The really cool and different thing about the use of angles in this film however is that you can't always use the same standard angles that you use to convey emotion in other films.  In Vehicle 19, the dashboard is a part of the set; it helps convey emotion in a lot of scenes.  The backs of the seats do the same.  So does the glove box and the steering wheel.  Everything in that van is able to help give mood and purpose to the scene.

I spoke about focus briefly as well, but that's just about what you'd expect.  Good use of racking focus, shallow focuses, depth of field, etc.

I don't think I'll go into any spoiler info about the story on this one.  It's not that I think there are any major plot devices I shouldn't be talking about, but it's just that it isn't that type of film.  The story is not the main focus, it's the journey and the style that make it what it is.

So there you have it: Vehicle 19.  I'd give this film a solid 8 out of 10 (it would be a 7 but I gave it an extra point for creativity).  I do recommend watching it if you are looking for something different or are just a fan of the Phone-booth style of movie.

Well that's all for me for now.  Stay tuned for that Cellular review, but there may be one or two before that, we'll see how it goes.  I'm off, keep reading, keep watching, keep listening.

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