Tommy Bee, Glen McAllen-Finney, Sam Winterton
The end. Somewhere deep in our hearts we all know eventually, the day will come. The end of us as individuals, and the end of humanity as a whole. Many believe it's already happening, slowly - and "Project 444" capitalizes on that fear with its grim predictions of what the future brings. Only, this short film isn't necessarily about the end, rather a new beginning for humanity - a way to continue in a slightly different, but fundamentally familiar way. Enhanced humans. Humans able to stem the tides of end times through cybernetics, yet remain human enough to repopulate. "Project 444" tells the lead-up story, the attempts, and final successful creation of these hybrid beings. The end is coming, and although science fiction at heart, "Project 444" isn't so far out there as to be completely unbelievable. Perhaps, it's not unbelievable at all.
Nestled within its length of under thirty minutes is the story of Tim, and by extension, the story of Fiona. Although the Fiona aspect is barely touched upon, the "mate" project in the film ends up being an important one. The film begins just a small amount of years in the future, and ends in the same manner. Relatively speaking. "Project 444" allows us to witness the creation of Tim, told through flashbacks as a couple, Sophie and Pete, find Tim on a random road - and bring him home. It's through this couple that "Project 444" progresses through time, but it's through the flashbacks we learn of Tim's creation by mega-company Mech Labs. It's all very gritty, and we're shown that our future is not a good one - so much in fact, that the average life span is now twenty-seven years. The planet has gone to shit, and we get to witness a bit of this through the flashback sequences, and the news footage on Tim and Sophie's television. But for me, the real message was one of hope - and that's the one I choose to hold onto. That message? Humanity may possibly continue, not quite the same... but continue none the less. I also couldn't help but notice that it looks like this project has a planned sequel - it makes sense because as it is right now, "Project 444" does feel like a television show.
What else can I write about the technical elements than to say "Project 444" is a low-budget indie flick. It really does look the part, including all the hallmarks of a micro-production. Stylistically? This film is very contrasty, very moody, and a little rough around the edges. I couldn't help but wonder if reducing the contrast would have helped to get rid of the raccoon eyes on the characters. This phenomenon is a staple of indie movies, especially ones that don't quite use light in its most ideal form. Visually, this lack of lighting is the biggest indie staple I noticed while watching - followed by the excessive use of filters, or something that looks like filters. However, at the same time, these aspects did, in fact, help with the mood of the film. I guess the viewer will ultimately decide if they personally like the style.
The only other thing that struck me as odd was the technology within the film itself. The movie is set slightly in the future, yet we have imagery - and even television news anchors, that look like they came straight out of the 1990s or early 2000s. For those old enough to remember Max Headroom from the 1980s - the Max character looked more human than the CG images in this film. I understand it's hard to present a dirty future, but consistency is key. Jumping from modern-ish fingerprint scanners in one scene, to a CGI news host that looks like she came from a decade ago, and even to some extent the USB port, kind of threw me for a loop.
So, what are my overall thoughts? They are not bad at all - really. "Project 444" takes a cliche topic and adds its own spin on things. Conceptually, the writers have done a great job at world-building, even though we don't get to see all that much. This film will never get confused for a big-budget production, but it also never claims to be one. There's a lot here to love, and Glenn McAllen-Finney and his troupe have created something that more than does the trick. If I had one complaint overall, it's that this film felt like a small part of a bigger production. But if this really is only the first chapter, then that makes complete sense. A solid three stars.