So many people now days are internet natives. There was a time however, when the internet was new and shiny. Automation was something seen mainly in massive factories, and if you wanted something - you had to personally go and get it. Dealing with whatever mood the sales clerk, or cashier happened to be in at the time. Even as modernization to current standards was baby stepping itself to where it is today, not everyone embraced it. Even now, not everyone embraces it. But for the current generation who grew up using it, anything less tech oriented seems outdated. Even silly. These internet natives feel fine interacting with machines. Fine and dandy. Mainly, for this reason alone, "Number 13" when scrutinized, is a very scary short film. For so many different reasons.
In the movie, our unsuspecting protagonist is going about his daily routines, including a quick stop at his local grocery store. To his amazement, self checkout number 13 begins a conversation with him. Maybe a little odd - but not all that surprising when you consider what I've written above. The conflict within the film comes by way of what looks like an overworked employee. Getting frustrated that the patrons of the store are deciding on the self checkout, rather than him. Doing what comes natural to us humans, the clerk shuts down the self checkouts, leaving our protagonist to attempt a reboot the machine. I wouldn't dare write what happens next, but it's an interesting conclusion to an interesting concept. With a length of around six minutes, there really is no reason not to follow up on this title, and see what happens for yourself, when it becomes available.
Written and directed by Jonell Rowe, "Number 13" explores the seemingly far fetched possibility of self aware and thinking machines. Far fetched for people like myself that is, not so weird to anyone under the age of twenty five. The technical execution of this short film is something the cast and crew should be quite proud of. A reminder that today, independent, low budget film isn't restricted to B movie visuals and camera phone footage. I was quite impressed not only by the professional presentation, but also the amount of restraint Jonell Rowe practiced when putting this puppy together. There's nothing overly flashy here. No attempts at the "cool-beans" special effects every filmmaker has access to now days. No attempts to overly complicate the story or actions of the actors. This is all pretty simple stuff and yet it works so well. Story and actions first. If it's not needed, don't put it in. The way a story should be told. No excessive frills. I was however, a little on the fence when it came to the ending. A little cliff hanger of sorts that leaves the doors wide open for this story.
"Number 13" ends up leaving a little bit left for our imaginations to fly away with us. What if? Really... what if? Watching this six minute bit of science fiction was time well spent. A good story. A good cast and an overall good production. More to the point? I wouldn't be surprised if something like this actually did happen in some form or another. Or already has - if you keep up on internet gossip. The cast and crew have done a great job here. A well earned four stars.