Sunday, September 24, 2017

Short Film Review: Loyalty or Betrayal (2017)

A strong film can be made out of a huge range of elements which are set in an even bigger number of possible relations. This is why there is no definite recipe that makes a perfect film and also the same reasons why so many great yet wildly different movies exist. Still, most excellent works of art, including cinematography, come with a single distinctive advantage that either allowed them to be great or eventually made them that way. This element is called simplicity.

With a healthy degree of simplicity, any movie project stands a chance to become something extraordinary. Jonathan Vargas is a young filmmaker who has not created a masterpiece with his latest short film Loyalty or Betrayal, but has made a simple and incredibly effective work of art. It has its flaws, but it covers all of its bases in a wonderful manner, making it a dream come true for any jury on a short indie film festival.

Firstly, it showcases the director’s knowledge of cinematography to greatly expand on the things this production managed to acquire, which is aside from the actors, not much. But, in this film’s lens, ordinary rooms, garages, and backyards are transferred into places of immense suffering and soul-tearing decisions. The same locations faithful follow the simple-as-it-gets plot: a young criminal figure is tasked with taking out his own father after his betrayal of a crime organization is revealed.

The younger version of Vargas, who already made very ambitious projects like Gaby’s Revenge and Our Final Days Together, would most likely start building a more elaborate narrative from there. But instead, the more experienced Vargas left it with this simple premise which is this way made even more impacting.

Just like with the plot, Vargas works wisely with his actors. There is a whole universe in the not-speaking main character, but the director’s skills are best shown in his support cast, mainly Richard Sosa as the Vincent, the father and Kenneth Ruiz as another member of the crime organization. Both of them are excellent when it comes to the setup of the story and its girth – in fact, it could be said that both actually tell the story of the main character instead of him.

As the plot unravels in a manner that is not fully chronological, the viewers are left to wait until the end not just to see what happens, but to experience closure. In this act, the Loyalty or Betrayal shows itself as an excellent crime thriller that is condensed into 13 minutes and still manages to tell all that needs to be told. Vargas made with the film his best work so far and I have no doubts about this whatsoever.

Starting with simplicity and enforcing it with elegance and sharp storytelling, he created a fine short film, worthy of things like the early works of Steven Soderbergh. Technically, there is still room for improvement, but in its essence, Loyalty or Betrayal has no flaws as a narratively-focused work of art.

I’ll be bold enough to foretell a bright future for this work when it comes to indie film festivals. Also, it is definitely the thing that Vargas wants backing him up as an artist as he prepares for the next logical, but very demanding step – his first feature film.

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