Tammie Renee Mickle
When Jason Cole successfully finishes an undercover sting operation at the beginning of "Rift," it sounds like he's going to hang up the spurs and leave behind the madness and mayhem of major crimes for a safer environment - battling white-collar criminals from behind a desk instead. While we can tell that's not exactly the life he envisioned for himself and that he'd probably prefer to stay in the field, fighting against the worst of the bad guys in the city streets. His wife, Savannah, has also made it clear that she's got goals of her own that are equally important to consider. That whole call to start a family thing, where you have kids and get the house with the white picket fence and all that comes with it – and some peace of mind for the both of them. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad for Jason.
Wisely deciding to give it a try and see if there's anything to the adage of 'happy wife, happy life' – Cole is all set to make that transfer to an easier day-to-day routine. It's clear that Savannah is his number-one priority, and he's prepared to walk away from all the danger of his job as a cop to concentrate on building a more secure life for his wife and potential family-to-be. As he arrives early at a restaurant on his anniversary to share a meal with Savannah, she never shows up. Instead, we meet a mysterious stranger who offers Jason a theoretical choice – he could save everyone in the very room he's sitting in, or he could save one person instead. While it's fair to say that you've probably seen enough movies in your lifetime to recognize a bad guy when you see one - and that deep down you know exactly who that 'one person' Jason could choose to save will be, "Rift" is still a really decent film that's built on mental chess and gripping intensity. Director Jason Winn does a stellar job of taking you through this battle of wits and transforming what once seemed theoretical into a threat that's now all too real – and with bombs being the bad guy's weapon of choice, time is of the essence.
There are many positives in how "Rift" has been made and how this story plays out in front of us. You've got Darren Cain playing Jason Cole, the cop, who does great work in giving his role the commanding presence required, with just a hint of a more traditional hands-off-my-wife type of machismo. You've also got Savannah, played by Brooke Montalvo, who makes the most of her time onscreen, either providing the serenity of the sweetness at the heart of this story or the backdrop of the plotline where the real intensity takes place regarding the choice Cole needs to make. You've also got Nikolai Valtteri played by Josh Hooks, a bad guy who arguably steals the show whenever he makes his presence known. Of all the characters written into this film, he gets to have the most fun with his role as the kind of dude that knows important things the rest of the people have yet to be clued into. I think in terms of a plotline too, "Rift" excels in how it poses the main question to Jason and us all in the process – we can put ourselves into his shoes for a moment and wonder what we would do if the same question of 'save everyone in the room or save one person' was put to us. What lengths would we go to to save the people we love? What would we do to save a total stranger? These are neat questions to ask yourself along the way, and of course, be thankful we don't actually have to make that choice. At least, hopefully, you don't have to make that choice. And if you have to make choices like that in life, how did you find the time to watch a movie?
I also thought the varied use of how the movie was filmed was highly effective in keeping us engaged. You've got your more traditional still-cam set-ups for sure, but you'll also find moments that are filmed like 'body cam' footage you'd see from the police, picture-in-picture shots where you see things onscreen like the characters would, and even a more aggressive first-person shooter-type of filming in there too. Keeping the visuals versatile was a great decision on the part of director Jason Winn, for sure.
While I did enjoy "Rift" and thought it was well-executed by all involved, I suppose there's still a bit of room to evolve in the writing of it at the end of the day – like I mentioned earlier, you will have seen many similar things in the crime/mystery realm before. That being said, it's not really what I'm referring to, though – I don't mind seeing a story I've seen before as long as it's told in the right way, and "Rift" certainly was when it's at its most intense. For me, it was more about the balance of it all. A combination of efforts from screenwriter Tammie Renee Mickle and Kendrick Foxx, who wrote the story - "Rift" can feel a bit too even when it comes right down to it…like in that half-climax/half-denouement type of way, and I'm not sure that's always the balance you want to strike.
I know I'm content to sit and watch once I'm invested in the characters – and credit to all of the actors we see in "Rift" who made that level of engagement so easy on us viewers – but story-wise, it felt like we spent quite a bit of time in the aftermath of the main plotline, almost as if we're setting up a "Rift" part two. And perhaps that's the intention – that'd be cool with me, and I'm sure with you too; but I'd still advise caution as to how much time is spent on that versus how much time is spent on the main storyline, make sense? All-in-all though, I'm really not complaining – "Rift" was highly watchable, makes sure to have its characters well-defined in terms of having that vulnerable hero we cheer for and a bad guy we can't get enough of, and while it might use a plotline we somewhat recognize, it's still one that never really gets old when it comes to movies in the action/mystery genres. It gets three and a half stars from me – "Rift" definitely entertains, and I'd be entirely interested in a sequel if there's a way to get this cast onboard once more.