Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the science fiction/suspense short THE TUNNEL by writer/director André Øvredal. To best sum up the story, I will turn to the press materials for the plot description:
“In a future world, we follow a family in traffic on their way home from a day at the beach, but first they must pass through a tunnel with a horrifying purpose.”
It is funny how much is communicated in the first minute of this short without a single word being spoken by the main cast. The establishing shots tell us right away that this family has just been at the beach, they live in some sort of future society, and they have been sitting in traffic for a long time. This opening serves as a perfect illustration of how to do exposition without a word of conversation.
Now that is not to say that this is a silent piece, there is dialogue, but none of it felt forced or overly expository. Instead we are treated to people under stress talking about a certain thing as if it is well known, not as if they have to introduce the concept to the audience which gives a lived in feel to the proceedings. By creating a sense of normalcy around the horrific concept of population control, this short creates an effectively tense atmosphere with dark political underpinnings.
Like some of the most memorable science fiction, this short deftly grapples with how a future society will deal with overpopulation. After all, what happens when there are more people than there is room? In this horrific culture they have decided to randomly cull the herd. It is a prescient political topic that feels just as relevant in our current climate as it did back in the 1960’s when the short story this is based on was first published. Here it translates to a suspense filled piece that keeps us dreading the tunnel just as much as the main character.
To be honest, the characters here are not terribly dynamic or groundbreaking, but serve as stand-ins for the modern middle class. We are supposed to identify with them quickly as being much like a typical family because that plays better upon our sympathies. As their dire situation becomes clearer, it is hard not to picture ourselves, or at the very least someone we know, having to run this same sacrificial gamut. It was a smart move to play upon human empathy like this as it arouses a sense of anger in the viewer that society as a whole coule ever get to be so heartless.
It is clear from the look of the piece that technology has run rampant, destroying much of mankind’s humanity. It is clear that humans have become inconsequential early on just based on visuals such as identical looking cars, a cityscape that blocks out the sky, and the tunnel itself, which is an automated beast devoid of anything but function. These little touches add up to a grander picture of a suffocating, technological society that has lost its way.
All in all, this is a well realized science fiction short that wins our sympathies while portraying a future horror. The sense of tension pervading this piece springs from our ability to identify with the lead’s plight and the killer score accompanying their journey. Fans of BLADE RUNNER (1982)and BLACK MIRROR (2011) will find a lot to chew over in this futuristic chiller.
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