This past week, I had the privilege of watching Agent, a new sci-fi thriller from RAW Films. You can check out the short, one-minute trailer, here.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Derek Ting, the film’s writer, director, and lead actor. Considering his podcast episode airs on Monday, Feb 20th, its seems only fitting that I review his film, right?
Agent was released on Vimeo on February 1st and is scheduled for a wider release starting March 28th (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play). By April, expect to see the film on cable via On Demand services.
This release schedule is typical for independent films and usually, it takes filmmakers years to finalize distribution. But Agent’s filmmakers are disrupting the space. Considering Ting is a former corporate tech exec, this makes perfect sense. Somehow, he has managed to bypass traditional distribution channels and make Agent available to the public mere months after wrapping principal photography. That’s incredible.
Agent takes place in present day and follows the story of four friends as they journey from LA into and the desert to fire guns. But something goes wrong (DUH) and a primordial entity is accidentally released. Havoc naturally ensues (nothing good ever comes from something like that, amirite?) and the friends are forced to make nail-biting, cringe-worthy decisions. Throw in a little government conspiracy and the Great Pyramids, and you’ve got the makings of a Nick Cage, action-adventure masterpiece.
My interests were peaked at the very beginning. Ting established the opening characters slowly and deliberately. There was very little dialogue - instead, he chose to use physical movements, body language, and facial expressions to establish conflict. From there, it takes a little while for the story to build but as soon as it does, the film erupts with action. Suddenly we have hand-to-hand combat, long-range weaponry, and military drones. Not to mention a pesky, alien force that wants to kill everything in sight. It’s a military sci-fi Western!
Speaking of Westerns, the film sure is shot like one. Cinematographer, Marvin Tam, captures the true vastness of the desert, perfectly. Picturesque images of bright blue skies and rocky, dusty terrains, his shots are as beautiful as they are ominous. I can’t help but admire the desert, as well as fear it, all at the same time. The film’s music, created by Ben Robinson, accentuated this effect and left me feeling haunted.
So did the film’s special effects. They were eerily accurate. My husband plays a lot of Xbox, big-budget shooter games and these effects rivaled those. Which works well if your plot includes a government conspiracy. Who isn’t creeped out by the idea of our government secretly working with aliens?
With a production budget of $100,000 USD (see official press release here), Agent wasn’t perfect. More time could have been taken to elaborate on those government conspiracy details I was so desperate to learn. Also, relationships sometimes felt forced. WAY too much time was spent shooting guns. Those precious seconds (I think it was more like minutes but seconds sounds better) could have been used to develop character's backstories.
But maybe Ting is saving that for the sequel. How do I know there will be a sequel? He told me! You can listen to the entire podcast interview here.
Overall, Agent was enjoyable and I can't tell you how excited I am for the sequel. I need answers. In fact, I demand them!
And hey, thanks to Ting and his magical ability to curb conventional distribution avenues, I won’t have to wait to see it.
To learn more about Agent, visit: http://www.agentthemovie.com.
Available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, March 28, 2017
Sources: IMDB, South China Morning Post