Bullet Points: Agent (2017)
I’m not sure how I ran across the poster for Agent but it intrigued me because it reminded me a lot of a similar photo I took of my first combat deployment back in 2004. I was, of course, mean-mugging it for the camera and there was no threat of an alien invasion at the time but picture gave me enough motivation to hunt down the film and give it a try.
It’s a film that had a unique development. One that I knew nothing about until it had already been released on several platforms. If I had seen it before a few days ago I would have certainly become a Kickstarter supporter as I think that it’s exactly the type of movie that action fans could get excited for. There is nothing worse than seeing a trailer for a film and then realizing that it won’t be released for another 18 months. Luckily, filmmakers like Derek Ting have come up with an alternative. I do hope that it catches on.
Synopsis: Agent the movie is a science-fiction thriller about a group of friends who go out to the desert to shoot guns where they unexpectedly unleash an ancient power and find themselves caught up in a government conspiracy that forces them to choose between friendship and the fate of the world.
- Meet Jim: The opening few minutes introduces us to actor/writer/director Derek Ting as our lead character named Jim. We see him lose his job in a warehouse and watch as he opens a letter denying his application to the C.I.A. One might say that things are looking quite bad for Jim. He’s also dealing some sort of blood disorder that we don’t quite understand. All of that is in the first few minutes so we feel extra bad for the guy when his best friend Seth (Eric Keitel) shows up with the love of Jim’s life at his side. The three share some semi-awkward moments and we’re introduced to the fourth member of their team who also happens to be a beautiful blonde by the name of Kara (Oliva Hultgren). The film takes special care to allow Ting a few extra moments to really get his emotional state exposed to the viewers. That’s a really good thing for a movie that is bound to pick up at some point.
- Hive Minded: Some short shots are spliced in with Jim speaking with a therapist/doctor/scientist about a hive mind or swarm mentality. Someone mentions that aliens were using it to get humans to build a bunch of ancient monuments. It felt a bit out of place to me since more than a third of the film goes by before we ever are brought back into the thriller/sci-fi aspect of the movie. I had written down a note about the “hive mind” but had forgotten that it was even mentioned because I had already diverted my attention to learning more about Jim and his friends.
- Firearms 101: The friends arrange for a firearms instructor to meet them in the middle of the desert and before they know it they’re all living the American dream; blowing shit up with high powered rifles! All four of the crew get in on the action and we learn that Jim was trying to be a part of the C.I.A. as an analyst after serving in the Army in military intelligence. The coolest thing about the scenes are the extreme care taken to not only be as realistic as possible with the firearms but also to point out the safety risks. The language both vocal and with the body, is something that normally makes me furious in movies but the shooting scenes in Agent were among my favorite of the film.
- The Red Mist: It takes a while for anything involving the would-be alien invasion to happen and even when it does it never really grabs you by the balls. The crew take turns blasting at some home-made explosives and upon inspection the darling blonde Kara gets infected with some sort of blood borne bio-something or other. All I know is that there is a big red mist and all of a sudden she’s a host for whatever the alien creature is. There are definitely constraints when you’re doing an alien movie on a small budget but I would have liked to have seen some sort of differentiation to the characters who were infected. Maybe some red eyes or something.
- Bring on the Action: Once the characters start getting infected their friendships break down and it turns into survival of the fittest. Jim and his former love end up on the run from their now-alien-host friends. Jim turns on this best action hero powers and gets into a couple of hand-to-hand bouts and a good amount of shootouts. A team of spec ops guys show up when the shit hits the fan and it isn’t long before they find themselves among the infected as well. All in all, there is a good deal of action in the second half of the film and I enjoyed most of it more than one might expect.
- Locations: The scenery felt like it was a character in the film. Much of what is going on with the characters has to do with the fact that they’re stranded out in the middle of nowhere. This story doesn’t work well if they’re in Chicago or downtown L.A. so the desolate area in which it is filmed takes on an important role in the film. It also looks really cool. The team scouted out some good locations and everything comes off really well on camera.
- The Verdict: Agent isn’t the type of movie that is going to get your heart racing a thousand times a minute. It’s more a slow-burn thriller that turns into a shoot’em up actioner only after the moment forces the characters to defend themselves. We never really learn much about the aliens or what exactly happened to the people in the film but it doesn’t take away from the final product in any way. I would love to see these guys get a 10 episode run where the first two episodes were essentially the events of this film. I’ll be curious to see what Derek Ting and his people come up with next as I’m definitely open to seeing where this story goes. You can check out Agent on iTunes or VUDU now.