Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Keir Burrows
Writer: Keir Burrows
Producer: Dieudonnee Burrows
Stars: Yaiza Figueroa, Tom Barber-Duffy, Philippa Carson, Noah Maxwell Clarke, James Farrar, Yolanda Vazquez, Casey Lawler, Harrie Hayes, Julia Savill
An amnesiac graduate student’s life mysteriously unravels after she tests a teleportation wormhole on herself.
Oxford PhD candidate Ana Carter almost can’t believe her own experiment’s success when she makes an electron disappear. The thing of it is, she has no idea where it went.
Enter fellow grad student Nate. More than merely Ana’s romantic interest, Nate helps Ana take her research to a level where marbles pull the same Copperfield as the microscopic particles preceding them. Neither aspiring scientist is certain what is happening, though they do know they need to push further.
Anxious for more processing power to keep algorithms calculating and the apparatus electrified, computer programmer Liv joins the clandestine project. Liv writes code for a worm that hacks thousands of networked servers. With the behemoth bump in silicon brainpower, the trio discovers they’ve created a wormhole, and are soon sending silkworms and housecats several feet across the lab.
Ana, Nate, and Liv have a short window with the computer worm to get data ducks in a row before wooing potential investors. That means a human has to go through the wormhole asap, and Ana draws that short straw.
Ana successfully teleports before blacking out. But when she comes to, Ana can’t remember what happened. What’s worse, Nate and Liv seemingly have no intention of telling her. Inexplicably, masked intruders, aggressive activists, and suspicious investigators now have Ana centered in their crosshairs as a brain-scrambling conspiracy develops. The only person Ana can trust to uncover the truth is herself. Except without the ability to form new memories, and with strange visions amplifying newfound paranoia, Ana can no longer rely on her own mind either.
It can be inadvertently easy to become lost in the opening act of “Anti Matter.” Throwaway “techspeak” is hellbent on selling the science behind the fiction with blistering blather about photonic energy calculations. Don’t let the movie’s habit of working too hard break your willingness to get into its world. None of this numerical nonsense is essential. Dash quickly to the other side of its exposition and “Anti Matter” makes good on the promise of packaging intelligence and imagination into a compact sci-fi thriller.
There are certainly far worse sins a movie can commit. But if “Anti Matter” is guilty of any cinematic crime, it is doing more than required to add artificial suspense it doesn’t necessarily need.
Much of this forced flair comes from overly ominous lighting or a relentless music score that doesn’t know when to pipe down. A strong story and highly capable cast are both equipped to do the heavy lifting on most scenes. But “Anti Matter” really aims to puff up appearances with colorful smoke swirls shooting through venetian blinds and active audio that won’t stand for one second of silence.
The penchant for piling things on is truly seen whenever the movie adds another complication, whether for Ana or for the viewer. The camera frequently frames attention on clues that don’t matter. “What ifs” posit possibilities and “who’s thats” introduce people of ultimately irrelevant value. There is nary enough food to feed all the red herrings in the story’s stream.
It’s satisfying enough to simply bathe in the moment alongside the movie’s mystery. “Anti-Matter” doesn’t need this constant carousel making minds question how all of the pieces fit in. That some of those pieces don’t fit at all puts salt on the scrape. There then comes a point past the one-hour mark where movement stalls because breadcrumbs stop dropping, and the runtime repeats hollow beats.
As a critic and as a film fan, I recognize the hypocrisy of chastising a movie for putting in this much effort to entertain me. I’m talking tough against “Anti Matter” because first-time feature writer/director Keir Burrows has the talent to be able to take it.
Even when shoehorning action sequences that aren’t motivated or serving up multiple misdirects to make the movie work, Burrows’ cheats always keep “what’s the biggest film I can make on a modest budget?” in mind. This kind of indie ingenuity is not often seen in lo-fi sci-fi. On successfully executed ambition alone, “Anti Matter” rates with “The Answer” (review here) and “Time Lapse” (review here), coming close to “Timecrimes” (review here) and “Primer,” as a twisty true identity conundrum that is enjoyably engaging, albeit imperfect.
“Anti Matter” bites off a lot that isn’t chewed all the way through. Yet its integrity as a smart story and inventiveness as a motion picture make its overachieving attitude all the more endearing.
Review Score: 75