Kill Switch, Tim Smit’s directorial debut, is a ninety minute cut-scene, for better or worse. Based on his short film, What’s in the Box?, this effects-heavy sci-fi drama is a stunning first feature, even if the plot is uneven and relies far too much on its central gimmick. I say stunning because of the insane amount of work Smit put into this extremely low-budget film. It looks fantastic, much more so than its meager budget would imply.
Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Legion) plays Will Porter, a pilot tasked with traveling to a mirror of our world to acquire a Macguffin needed to shut down a machine threatening to destroy both worlds. Dodging armed men and vicious drones, Will is in a race against time to save his family, and all of humanity.
Kill Switch hits the ground running, wasting no time at all before diving into the story with both feet. Though simple, the plot kept my interest, enough so that a few plot holes were glaringly obvious, unfortunately. The technology behind the machine at the center of the story is never quite explained, and neither is the Redivider box so integral to Stevens’ character. Hell, his character was never fully fleshed out other than that he cares for his sister and her son. Most, if not all of the characters were merely ciphers, much like an NPC in a video game. Even the shadowy organisation behind the machine is devoid of even the most basic of backgrounds.
Its main gimmick, first-person shooter style perspective, was an interesting idea executed capably. The main reason I give this movie a bigger pass than many have comes down to Smit himself; Kill Switch is a passion project and it shows. After the day’s filming had wrapped, the director would hop onto the computer to work on VFX shots, completing a large percentage of them himself. Smit had a singular vision, and worked tirelessly to bring it to life. Though the gimmick is not enough to sustain the film on its own, I have to admire Smit simply for trying something new with the art form.
The Blu-Ray gives some background into the sheer amount of work everyone put into the film through Smit’s commentary, as well as The Visual Effect: Inside the Director’s Process featurette.
For a debut film, Kill Switch is a great concept capably captured on celluloid. While far from a perfect film it kept me entertained, and looking to see what Tim Smit does next.
Kill Switch is out today on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital HD from Lionsgate.