Directed by: Drew Bolduc
Starring: Shannon Hutchinson, Yael Haskal, Jemima Parent, Vito Trigo, Irene Santiago,
Set in the near future where Earth is still reeling from an alien invasion which has left the Capitol destroyed in a self-imposed nuclear attack. Four young teens are chosen for a special mission to visit the Earth President's space station which is currently orbiting an alien planet. However shortly after arriving at the space station, a catastrophe occurs and the four teens are jettisoned in an escape pod to the planet. Now they must learn to work together to survive their new environment…
Although it does have a couple of issues, Assassinauts is a film which surprised the hell out of me, on many different levels.
Starting with a very bizarre prologue in which the US President is revealed to be hosting a giant eyeball and tentacled alien, the scene is set for a film which will continue to defy your expectations. We follow Sarah, a teenager whose father used to be an astronaut himself, has been working hard to get accepted on this special mission. She meets three other teens, Brooke, Tom and Charlie. Brooke is the nerdy one who is excited to be meeting the president, Charlie seems introverted at first, and Tom is a smarmy brat. They are to be chaperoned by The Commander, who we met during the prologue.
The four teens are pretty decent in their roles and don't come across as too annoying. Sarah is our main protagonist and is someone to root for - a resourceful leader who tries to rise above her circumstances. We spend a bit of the early part of the film with Sarah and her family and see how and why she might want to take part on this mission.
The art direction and set design is very striking, as you can see from these two images. Red features a lot - the ante-room to the transporter is all clad in shiny red tiles, for example.
The script (by director Drew Bolduc) is very good, with believable dialogue. It's never made clear why exactly these teens are being sent into space (is it just a PR exercise, as Tom suggests?) but the script doesn't shy away from the ridiculousness of the situation, with a number of characters standing against the decision.
Like the best of low-budget films, Assassinauts finds ways to overcome its limitations. For example, the use of a transporter to get the kids to the station, and using the interior of an old battleship for the station's interior. From the looks of things it must be more difficult to handle firearms on set than it is to put together some eye-pleasing CGI shots I was very surprised by the quality of the fx shots in space. The film also uses a lot of gore fx and prosthetics.
You would be forgiven If you assumed that a film with four kids as the leads would be a kids movie. Believe me, it's not. This is a film which does not pull any punches when it comes to putting its protagonists in peril and treats them just the same as an adult cast in that regard. No one is guaranteed to make it to the end credits, which is pretty ballsy. This is a film willing to follow through with its convictions.
ASSASSINAUT is a really inventive, ballsy film. Sometimes it's narrative is a bit hard to follow - you need to pay attention to the radio broadcasts playing in the background of some scenes to keep up with the backstory, and I was totally confused by what the Earth President says at the end. The art direction, editing, framing of shots, score….are all excellent, the young cast likeable (mostly - but that's kind of the point) and the script delivers a whole bunch of surprises I never saw coming.