Review: Reboot (2012)

By Ronan Doyle

reboot1


Cast: Emily Somers, Travis Aaron Wade, Martin Copping
Director: Joe Kawasaki
Country: USA
Genre: Short | Drama | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Reboot can be bought now on the film’s official website

“You’re glued to that thing,” my mother would moan in my youth when, enticed by the enveloping glow of whatever new gadget found its way into my palm—be it Gameboy, phone, MP3 player perhaps—I would grow further and further distanced from the physical world, trading tangible for virtual. It’s a common sentiment treated with the utmost seriousness in Reboot, Joe Kawasaki’s punchy techno-thriller short that sees his amnesia-stricken hacker heroine Stat awaken—face bloodied, apartment thrashed, identity unclear—with an iPhone, mysteriously displaying an ominous countdown, literally adhered to her palm.

At the heart of the piece is the affable work of Emily Somers in the lead role, making of Stat a character artfully balanced between her strengths and weaknesses, defined as much by her human vulnerability as her headstrong charm. Largely alone on screen, save for choice flashback sequences expanding upon the relationship with her assumed assailant, Somers commands the attention of camera and audience alike…

reboot3Giggles at the general premise of Reboot should easily be forgiven; on paper—or indeed on a handheld screen—it reads less like the basis for a satisfying cinematic experience than it does the accidental outcome of a DIY job gone wrong. Yet given the chance to see the idea to fruition, Kawasaki and team rapidly expose the folly of any such snide derision, concocting with their seemingly absurd story an insightful snapshot of contemporary online culture, as observantly in-touch with the world around as it is adeptly equipped to transform its forty minute runtime to an exhilarating exercise in top-tier tension.

At the heart of the piece is the affable work of Emily Somers in the lead role, making of Stat a character artfully balanced between her strengths and weaknesses, defined as much by her human vulnerability as her headstrong charm. Largely alone on screen, save for choice flashback sequences expanding upon the relationship with her assumed assailant, Somers commands the attention of camera and audience alike, spouting Kawasaki’s witty dialogue—traded, in a tricky setup, with her hacking collective colleagues via a three-way video chat—with enough sassy vim to make hers a character of impressive definition all-too-often unseen in such short-form storytelling.

His snappy dialogue enlivens the film with a sarcastic energy that’s as much an accurate mirror of our brave new online world as the central hacking conceit; indeed, it’s these underlying reflections of modern society ever more than the surface narrative allusions that provide the thematic backbone of the movie.

reboot4For all the strengths of her work, and indeed that of her talented co-stars, Somers’ skills find key support in the solid foundations of Kawasaki’s sharp script. His snappy dialogue enlivens the film with a sarcastic energy that’s as much an accurate mirror of our brave new online world as the central hacking conceit; indeed, it’s these underlying reflections of modern society ever more than the surface narrative allusions that provide the thematic backbone of the movie. The trio’s efforts to disarm the device might offer the inertia that moves the plot toward its conclusion, but it’s the subtle asides—the smaller references behind the bigger picture—that form the bulk of Kawasaki’s subtextual insight.

Incidental though it is, one of Reboot’s most intriguing observations on the technologically-driven world of today is its own production history: produced off the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s above all a proud testament to the benefits of digital cinema and the increasing communal collaboration it facilitates. Independent in every sense of the word, this is a film with a visual sheen to put many studio productions to shame, Curt Apduhan’s sumptuous cinematography playing with focus to deliver an aesthetic as jointly efficient and alluring as the story it helps to tell. Let those who lament the decline of celluloid as the decline of cinema whine on: film may be on its way out; Reboot is proof positive that films are as strong as ever.

78/100 ~ GOOD. Reboot concocts with its seemingly absurd story an insightful snapshot of contemporary online culture, as observantly in-touch with the world around as it is adeptly equipped to transform its forty minute runtime to an exhilarating exercise in top-tier tension.
Ronan Doyle is an Irish undergraduate film student and freelance critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.