The god's honest truth is that technically this film deserves a slightly higher rating than I am comfortable giving it. It hits all the right notes, and from a production standpoint, it is fantastic. "Life After" was an absolute nail-biting pleasure to watch, and by this point, I can imagine anyone reading this is saying to themselves, "Then why not the slightly higher rating?" I'll go into that below, but for now, here's a relatively spoiler-free snapshot of what Jesse Edwards's short film is all about.
Honestly? "Life After" is almost your typical cop drama with the feel of a much larger story ... and world ... at play. The film starts as Ashley watches a funeral from a distance. She has suffered a terrible loss and doesn't exactly know how to push through it. It's implied that the loss of her fellow officer and lover is much more complex than is stated - and this somber cold opening plays a crucial role in what is to follow. What's that, you ask? A hostage situation with a different kind of hostage-taker.
As "Life After" switches gears and races towards the main plot arc, we quickly find Ashley playing left field as authorities move in to deal with an unusual hostage situation. Once on the phone, the hostage-taker demands an answer to a riddle he had stuck on the door of the building he inhabits. As talks begin to break down between him and "the man in charge," Ashley manages to blurt out a possible answer just in time - buying the hostages a brief reprieve. But the man inside is only half-happy with her response and demands she enter the building ... alone. This sets up the film's second half, and as I wrote up top, some pretty intense scenes follow. The short and sweet of this review is this. "Life After" is most definitely worth a watch - especially if you're into shows like "F.B.I.," "SWAT," or movies like "The Silence of the Lambs." Edwards' film had no problem holding my attention and easily surpassed my expectations. Well done.
So why did I feel the need to score this flick a little less than I thought it deserved? First, let me be clear. Four stars is a pretty stellar rating no matter how you slice it - but I really wanted to go a little higher perhaps... and here's why I didn't. Warning: Slight spoilers below. Skip to the last section if you want to keep "Life After" as spoiler-free as can be.
My biggest complaint about this film has nothing to do with perceived production values, writing, or the acting. Which, by the way, is pretty damn good. It all has to do with how it ends, and technically, my biggest complaint is also a pretty big compliment. This film ended rather poorly - and I don't mean that I didn't like writing/story; I mean that it literally ended on a cliffhanger. All that buildup and absolutely nothing resolved.
"Life After" ended as if it were only the first act of a larger film. An argument could be made that this short film is actually the pilot for a television show ... but that wouldn't quite make sense either. Even pilot television episodes wrap up the major aspects of the story that is being told. A start, middle, and ending. In this film, there's literally a start and a middle. That's it. If another "episode" surfaces that continues the story, I would be glad to come back and amend my review - but here's the thing. What if one doesn't? In that case, "Life After" is a story with no ending... or purpose. And that's the rub for me. Let's say, for example, that some or all of the hostages were killed, or that Ash managed to save them all - and that the hostage-taker managed to escape. That would have wrapped up the smaller story and left room for a "series" to continue - as the police force, and Ashley attempted to find and capture the hostage-taker. A nice little ending that left the door wide open to continue the story. So, reader, as you can see, my biggest complaint is also a compliment. I wanted to know more. I wanted to see more. As a standalone film, "Life After" just felt a little unfinished.
At the end of the day? "Life After" is, simply put, an excellent production. It's well-written, slick, and polished, and if the game's name is to entertain - one hundred percent that goal was achieved. There's a slightly spooky grit to this short film that captures your attention and holds it until the bitter end. Ending aside, I have absolutely no problem giving this flick two thumbs up, and yes, reader, I really hope there's more to come from this troupe of talented people. Four stars.