Kill Switch (2017) Review
Kill Switch was directed by Tim Smit, written by Charlie Kindinger (Moriarty: The Devil’s Game) and Omid Nooshin (Virtual Terror, Last Passenger) and stars Dan Stevens (The Rental, The Guest), Berenice Marlohe (Skyfall, Revolt), Tygo Gernandt (Black Death, Brimstone), Charity Wakefield, and Kasper van Groesen (The Zigzag Kid). It’s about a pilot trying to return the Earth to normal after an interdimensional experiment goes horribly wrong.
The Plot: Interesting ideas are in no short supply within ‘Kill Switch’. The catalytic event being the most promising, but the movie is reluctant to do anything but present ideas and fall back on its largely first-person perspective. Will (Stevens) takes a vague and underexplained job from executive Abigail (Marlohe) at Alterplex, an energy corporation which aspires to use matter from a copy of the universe for energy, for the sake of his sister Mia (Wakefield) and nephew Donny (van Groesen).
Will wakes up in the Echo, a flipped version of the home he once knew in chaos directed at the Alterplex tower by rebels, and objects manifesting out of the air. Will remembers little except for his objective: put the “redivider” (a black box that will do as it says) in the tower. Much attention is called to the redivider but it’s never put in any danger or shown to be important; only told. He runs into fellow employee Michael (Gernandt) and Abigail on his way and they all rush towards the tower to put the thing in the other thing.
The Characters: Details are provided about Will and his family, which are appreciated, but there’s little that matters among the already small spatters of characterization, which makes Will fall flat on his face while the others don’t even stand up, much less fall over. Will’s a smart man. He’s ex-military who got snatched up by NASA for his know-how and is brought in by Alterplex for the same reason. The only reason he took the job is for his struggling family. Will is also a stupid man. He blindly accepts a position from a secretive exec at a crazy company and doesn’t think twice.
Mia is his grateful sister who tries to connect with Will despite him always being at work, and Donny is homesick. The two act as a bargaining chip and that’s it. Michael is an unconditional helper, taking Will wherever he needs to go without question; and Abigail is just a tail. Performances here are fine. Stevens and Wakefield are good with what little they get but no one else has enough written on the page to show onscreen.
The Thrills: Smit tries to summon some momentum alongside the debris and vehicles in the air but can’t keep ‘Kill Switch’ going for its fairly brief runtime. The most prevalent method that’s used is the first-person perspective which works in games (and Hardcore Henry) because there’s a character that the player gets to live vicariously through, but because the movie has next to no characters and a simple task that’s asked of Will, there’s no pulse. Occasionally there is a rise in tension, largely due to some passable chase scenes and impressive moments of destruction involving the collapsing gateway between universes that are made more interesting with the novel filming technique.
If these moments were kept at a higher tempo the movie could’ve gotten away with the lack of cohesive plot or dynamic characters. Instead, Kindinger and Nooshin’s script opts to stop the movie in its tracks to show flashbacks that give some (but not much) development to Will’s family life. A more linear narrative with a few flashbacks toward the end might’ve kept the flow better. Whether these choices were made out of low-budget necessity or artistic vision is unknown to me, but the effects are plain to see.
The Technics: A less-than-optimal financial backing may have resulted in Kill Switch’s messy pacing and diminished thrills, but the movie is still pleasing to look at. Smit managed to bring some detailed CG locations like the Alterplex tower to life and the damage to the city to the screen, although the drones that keep popping up throughout the movie do look a little like something out of Killzone or Halo or whatever sci-fi shooter may come to mind. Sound design and mixing are decent as well, the disaster sequences in particular come to mind with appropriate crunching metal, disturbed terrain, and falling buildings. It’s eye candy and audibly satisfactory but never more than that.
Smit’s debut feature is unique in its perspective and has some ripe ideas but its desire to make reference to the gaming zeitgeist and indulge in lacklustre characters does more harm than good. An FPS has energy. Hardcore Henry had energy. Kill Switch has a box.
Kill Switch was released in the US by Saban Films and in Canada by Mongrel Media. It’s currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on Digital Platforms. And if you’re looking for more films like it, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.