Niall McArdle takes a look at Paul Franklin’s science-fiction short, which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
Paul Franklin has made his mark in cinema in the dizzying world of visual effects, having done work on the likes of a few Harry Potter films, a Bond movie, and most recently, Captain America: Civil War. It’s his relationship with Christopher Nolan, however, that has been the most fruitful. They’ve worked together five times. Franklin turned city streets and hotel corridors on their head in Inception, and built an infinity of bookshelves for the purpose of space-time travelling (or something) in Interstellar (Franklin earned Oscars for both films).
All that time hanging out with Nolan has obviously rubbed off: Franklin’s directorial debut, The Escape, is a handsomely filmed science-fiction short that wears its influences on its sleeve: it feels like something that Nolan might make over a few days while waiting for Hans Zimmer to finish scoring his latest blockbuster.
Based on a short story by Robert Sheckley, The Escape has a mysterious, contrived set-up and much foreshadowing; its characters barely register as people; and it seems to exist in a fictional world just out of reach of our own.
Mr Lambert (Julian Sands looking scruffy, harried and old) scurries along a back –alley for a clandestine meeting in an antiques-filled warehouse with Mr Kellan (Art Malik, oozing charm and looking like a luxury car dealer). Mr Kellan is offering Lambert the opportunity to live any life he dreams – “free from the life to which you are chained” – in exchange for a high fee and ten years of his lifespan. He can do this because there are many worlds other than our own, “containing all possibilities, all outcomes.” How Lambert has mastered travel between parallel universes is never explained, nor why he needs to run his business out of a darkened warehouse, other than the fact that “the authorities take a dim view of my activities, so I’m obliged to exist where I can.”
Meanwhile, Lambert’s business is suffering, his daughter is heading off to university, his young son frets about the torrential rains the country is currently enduring, and his wife Sarah (Olivia Williams) feels that life is going too fast.
Franklin saves his big visual effects money shot until the end, and it’s a doozy (although I suspect you’ll see it coming). Until then, The Escape looks rather ordinary. However, the choice to begin work behind the camera making a short film was a wise one. The Escape is a decent enough calling card for Franklin, unlike, say, another of Nolan’s associates, cinematographer Wally Pfister, who made his directorial debut with the feature-length snooze-fest Transcendence. Franklin’s next film will be an adaptation of the YA novel Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson.
The Escape premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival on 20th April 2017