[Fantasia 2021 Review] INDEMNITY
Courtesy of Fantasia
Conspiracies surrounding the government and action-thrillers are a well-treaded pairing, providing much for viewers to enjoy. Throw in the one ordinary man against the world focus, and you have a recipe for familiar comfort viewing. The downside is that it can be difficult to find anything new to explore from a creative standpoint, with many recent action-thrillers struggling to discover new ground via action sequences, story or subject matter. However, with the arrival of South African director/writer Travis Taute‘s INDEMNITY, there is a mixture of both familiar comforts and new life in his take on the action-thriller genre. This balance of new and old makes this action-thriller a must-see.

Firefighter Theo (Jarrid Geduld) is on leave after developing PTSD post a tragic incident during a rescue that left his team dead. Much time is spent building up a case to cast Theo in the role of an unreliable narrator, with the viewer getting a glimpse of how he’s struggling to reconcile with his PTSD, and how it is impacting his family. However, while the audience gains a glimpse inside Theo’s struggle, a conspiracy is afoot. All of this expositional build-up fills in some gaps for the viewer before Theo wakes up to discover his wife dead next to him. From that point onward, Theo must fight to clear his name and, if lucky enough, uncover a conspiracy that will shake the very core of South Africa.

INDEMNITY is filled to the brim with information to convey to the audience, which comes with a heavy mixture of pros and cons. The information introduced throughout the course of the film does add further clarity, depth, and richness to the overarching conspiracy and its various mysteries featured in the story. However, this information overload coupled with the rampant pacing in the film can cause a feeling akin to whiplash. It’s quite easy to miss something if the viewer isn’t paying attention. Upon further inspection, however, each bit of information provided is essential to uncovering the mystery. So, it’s difficult to say the best approach to tweaking this potential issue.

Courtesy of Gambit Films

What information is provided towards the conspiracy seems to be lacking when taking a closer look at some of the characters involved onscreen. Jarrid Geduld’s Theo is the most well-rounded character, with various clues and moments of exposition painting a clearer picture as INDEMNITY pushes forward. The exposition featured prior to Theo’s wife, Angela (Nicole Fortuin), dying helps flesh out the character in a way that other characters in the film do not benefit from. This can make it hard for the individual viewer to invest in the characters onscreen. Whether it’s the cops hunting Theo down, the firefighters that Theo worked with, and the henchmen sent to bring Theo down, we see the character archetype the actors are meant to embody. But there’s not enough material for the actors involved to truly help transcend the characters they portray onscreen. Taking this in, it becomes all too clear that INDEMNITY is Jarrid Geduld’s to lose. Fortunately, he delivers a believable and compelling performance from beginning to end.

For an action-thriller, action and fight sequences take precedence. INDEMNITY should be applauded for how well-choreographed the fight sequences are. The stunts team really knocked it out (no pun intended) with tightly coordinated, adrenalin-pumping scenes. The score by Kyle Shepherd is used to further heighten the intensity, with its impact most noticeable in scenes that require tension to be heightened. Hats off to you, Shepherd. Another shoutout should be given to those who handled the fire effects. There were moments where I wasn’t certain what was real fire and what might have been CGI but the way the fire was handled kept those sequences feeling grounded. It could have easily veered into over-the-top territory.

Overall, INDEMNITY is an action-thriller that can stand on its own two feet. While story beats will feel familiar to the viewer, especially fans of the action genre, Taute infuses the screenplay with a freshness that helps keep the viewer locked in. Jarrid Geduld’s Theo is relatable as the man just trying to survive while keeping his son at the forefront. The fight choreography is tight and will give plenty an action fan something to discuss with friends. There’s room for exploration with regard to PTSD, and how our society turns a blind eye to those heavily impacted by its impact. Personally, I’d be curious to see if Taute explores this further in future work as the subject itself is still considered taboo. There are enough nuggets there that I’d say he should go for it if he does. INDEMNITY is a must-see action flick.

INDEMNITY had its World Premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

Sarah Musnicky
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