Running Time: 87 minutes
Writer & Director: Tim R. Lea
Cast: Michela Carattini, Dianna La Grassa, Michael Drysdale, Gregory J. Wilken, John Michael Burdon
A confined psychological thriller, that ramps up the temperature to boiling point.
In a smart and concise opening credit sequence, it is established that nuclear war threatens and people will need the safety of shelters if war does break out. Cut directly to Sydney, Australia, where a party is in full swing and a group of 5 disparate friends meet to enjoy themselves. Relationships are established and tensions made clear.
Within a short space of time, smoke appears on the city horizon and panic begins to ensue. Nick (Michael Drysdale) alerts the group to the dangers they face and sends them down to the safety of the shelter in the basement. It’s a fight as to who makes it to safety but ultimately, once the friends are locked inside, the danger continues. They learn that the shelter was only built to contain 2 adults and 2 children, so in order to survive, someone must die. Relationships and individuals begin to disintegrate as the fight for life begins again.
The crux of 54 Days revolves around the choices people make when faced with the ultimate fear; death. So, sensibly, the story wastes no time in putting the characters in to their confined situation, left only to their own psychological destruction. It is a good move, as some of the early rooftop action has a rather staged and placed feel, making you aware that you are being presented a specific story. However, once the action moves down inside the shelter, scenes take on a more natural and flowing feeling. Now that the premise has been established, we can enjoy the fall out.
Shot on a low crowd funded budget, 54 Days is a great achievement, taking a simple concept and playing it out at the most extreme level. Originally conceived and made as a short film which reached the finals of the Sydney ‘Western Digital Project Sci Fi’, the feature film was then created. The Writer and Director Tim R. Lea clearly wanted to address issues and raise questions and he has succeeded, in both a distinct and stylish manner. Having directed plays and worked with theatre actors, his professionalism shines through; albeit parts of the film do suffer from feeling a little stagey.
Lea keeps the plot moving forward swiftly, pushing forward to Day 15 not long after the friends have entered the shelter. By choosing to have the day and remaining power information written on the screen, he also quickly and effectively depicts their journey. His script cleverly teases out the issues hiding beneath the surface of these friendships and as the characters learn more about each other, so do we, often having our initial thoughts confirmed, thus allowing us to feel a part of the story.
With such a small cast and location, there is nowhere for anyone to hide. The ensemble cast work well together, whilst some of the actors are (naturally) stronger than others. Anthony (John Michael Burdon) as Michelle’s (Michela Carattini) brash husband does a particularly good job of grating against his friends and depicting his precarious relationship with his wife. Nick (Drysdale), as the self-appointed leader of the group, also puts in a strong and confident performance which convinces on every level.
A story set in such confined circumstances is always a tricky concept to succeed with; think Lifeboat, Panic Room, Buried, so it is a credit that 54 Days works so well. It may be uneven in places, sometimes too placed and the acting a little stagey, but the passion of the film shines through and it succeeds where films with far bigger budgets often fail.
6.5 out of 10
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