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ASCENDANT (2021)

Ascendant poster

CAST
CHARLOTTE BEST
KARELINA CLARKE
ELSA COCQUEREL
ANDREW JACK
ALEX MENGLET
JONNY PASVOLSKY
SUSAN PRIOR
LILY STEWART
TAHLIA STURZAKER

WRITTEN BY
ANTAINE FURLONG
KIERON HOLLAND

CINEMATOGRAPY BY
FAITH MARTIN

EDITED BY
JONATHAN TAPPIN

MUSIC BY
DAVID HIRSCHFELDER

PRODUCED BY
DREW BAILEY
ANTAINE FURLONG
JAMES M. VERNON
KRISTY VERNON

DIRECTED BY
ANTAINE FURLONG

GENRE
MYSTERY
SCIENCE FICTION
THRILLER

RATED
AUS:MA
UK:NA
USA:NA

RUNTIME
102 MIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascendant poster

Impressive in craft and featuring a strong lead performance by Charlotte Best, Ascendant is let down by its pacing, yet director Antaine Furlong’s uncompromising vision keeps this potential franchise starter afloat.

It is a nightmare situation: a young woman named Aria Wolf (Charlotte Best), bound and blindfolded, awakens in a high-rise elevator suspended 120-floors off the ground. It is a scenario that director Antaine Furlong brings to life, and adds many curveballs while doing so. Many will watch Ascendant based on its excellent trailer that promises a thriller set in an elevator controlled by a madman, yet might just leave scratching their heads at the dense exercise in world building that transpires.

It doesn’t help that for the majority of the film Aria watches the torture of her CIA father (Jonny Pasvolsky) on a giant screen by a gang of Russian goons, led by Yaroslav (Alex Menglet in sinister Brian Cox mode). He is looking for “The Engineer” and will torment Alex and her family until he gets what he wants. Half the time it does feel like Ascendant is a blend of young adult action fantasy and a torture porn movie, albeit one with less bloodshed. At 101 minutes, Ascendant could have lost 10 minutes of these scenes to make for a tighter film.

What keeps Ascendant from crashing and burning is Furlong’s unique and uncompromising vision, brought to life with slick photography by Frank Flick (Living Universe), and excellent production design by Fiona Donovan, who especially gives the elevator a unique look. Furlong, in his first time as a feature film director, impressively delivers big imagery to match his ambitious story, never letting a limited budget restrict his vision of a sci-fi psychological thriller.

Good also is Charlotte Best as Aria, providing an emotional power and humanity to a film that often gets lost in its need to create a cinematic universe, rather than an engrossing film. Equally impressive is stuntwoman Marlee Barber, who is tossed and thrown in elevator scenes that are nightmare inducing.

Furlong and co-writer Kieron Holland have certainly delivered an unconventional story with many unanswered questions, but in a cinematic world that is built on repetition, Ascendent rises above the usual to deliver a film unique, if not a little confusing at times.

 

***

 

 

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