Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: The Vast of Night

Release date: May 29, 2020
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer

The Vast of Night chronicles the story of one fateful night in 1950s New Mexico. The film follows a young, curious, and intelligent switchboard operator Fay (McCormick) who tags along on an investigation by radio DJ Everett (Horowitz) as they discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.  

Set at the dawn of the space-race the Vast of Night has a fantastic dedication to recreating this time.  The 1950s are completely recreated in this film with a commitment to that era's fashion, cars, mannerisms, and period details.  The film story is told through narrative stitched together from dropped phone calls, AM radio signals, secret reels of tape forgotten in a library, switchboards, crossed patch lines and an anonymous phone call.  The film is like a visual radio program; much of the plot is developed through dialogue and through character interactions.  This is accentuated by solid performances from both Horowitz and McCormick.  Horowitz fully embraces Everett, and although he is annoying at the start, he grows on you as the film progresses.  McCormick is likewise fully invested in Fay, and she is likable and enthusiastic.

The film has a lot of touches to call back to the old twilight zone episodes.  Like those shows, the film doesn't explain a lot and lets the viewers learn about the situation through experiences and snippets.  There are callbacks to the twilight zone opening sequence, and the old school TVs that are prominently featured during that show.  However, the lack of explanation and slow exposition might be a turn off for those expecting something more exciting.  Likewise, the movie has beautiful long shots and long scenes that appear to be done in one take.  These are impressive, but tend to slow the film down even more as the camera pans for 45 to 50 seconds or a conversation stays on a character for the entire time without breaking.  It is an impressive feat, but one that might be a turn off for some viewers.  And although the film picks up in the final third, the first third of the movie is very slow.

The Vast of Night has an impressive commitment to the period in this character-driven homage to the twilight zone and other period mysteries.  If you have the patience for it, it will reward you with a unique cinematic experience.

Rent it.

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