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Life Tracker

I can read and write fluent DNA, but have a few problems speaking it...

 

It's not often that a movie comes along that is able to make the technique used to film it such an integral part of the story itself.  Life Tracker may be perceived as having a bit of a slow and unpolished start, but rest assured - that is all part of the plan and patient viewers will be richly rewarded with an original and interesting take on the science fiction genre.

In the near future (nearer than most near futures, in fact), Life Tracker Limited is a company specializing in the prediction of a person's life trajectory through the reading of their DNA.  Aspiring filmmaker Dillon grabs a camera and decides to document Life Tracker and it's effects on the world.  Along with his best friend Scott and Scott's girlfriend Bell, he will discover that what starts off as a seemingly insignificant idea, spirals into something much deeper, with the potential for much bigger consequences.

Life Tracker
Written & Directed by Joe McClean
Cast Matt Dallas, Rebecca Marshall, Barry Finnegan
Release Date 15 October 2013
Jason's Grade: A-

Sure, my plot description would be considered vague, at best, but the less that you know going in, the more you'll get out of Life Tracker in the end.  There are plenty of twists and turns - not necessarily in a Shyamalanian (© Jason Howard) sense, but more as points of plot discovery for both the viewer and the characters - and those are best left to be experienced sans prior knowledge.

Science fiction that veers so closely to science fact can be incredibly tough to pull off.  Without the shielding of spaceships, aliens, and light sabers to remind audiences that this can't really happen, you leave your work highly susceptible to being picked apart by viewers who fancy their eyes to be keener than most, specifically when using the framework of a faux documentary.  I can't personally speak to the accuracies of the science within the film (apologies to Mrs. Brewster, 10th grade science), but I can say that the attention to detail in this film was quite impressive.  Whether you personally believe a particular aspect to be accurate or not, you can feel certain that writer/director Joe McClean thought of it.

One of the most intriguing aspects is the shooting style, which integrates itself into the story in a way that makes it quite integral to the overall proceedings.  Aspiring filmmaker Dillon begins as someone unable to complete a film, but as the story progresses and he finds himself getting deeper into it, his talent actually improves (as it would) and his equipment is upgraded.  Through the course of the movie, we are given footage of varying quality from quite a few different setups and multiple aspect ratios.  Even Dillon's interview skills show great progression as he gains confidence.  This may be a bit off-putting to some viewers (particularly those off-duty script supervisors out there), but again, none of it was by accident.  If you stick with it, you'll see that it was all an essential part of the plan.

The acting by our three leads, Barry Finnegan as Dillon, along with Matt Dallas and Rebecca Marshall as his sidekicks, is all suitably naturalistic.  The acting style required of a narrative told in the guise of a documentary is a much different animal than that of a straight three-act structure, but they're able to avoid the usual stumbling blocks that can be associated with the subgenre.  They each have their own realizations to come to regarding their futures and they are able to handle it nicely.  There is also not much difficulty in buying into the relationship between the three.  The rest of the cast, honestly, can be a bit hit or miss when it comes to living up to the bar set by our leads, but they all did an admirable job at coming across as real people.

Jason's Final Thoughts:

Combining a highly intelligent script with an engaging show of technique, Life Tracker is impressive in its attention to detail.  In particular, I was able to appreciate that the religious and political implications of such a program are covered and how the knowledge of your future can actually affect that very same future (but, not necessarily used to intentionally change that future as seen in 1997's Gattaca, a film with some similar ideas).  Most importantly, the progression of the technique at hand was the clincher for sucking me into this story.  For fear of unnecessarily damning the opening minutes yet again, if you stick with this one through the end, you will be richly rewarded with a unique movie that straddles the line between science fiction and science fact, all while making you think a bit in the process.  Joe McClean has provided an excellent first feature film, and, according to my DNA print reading, I will apparently be highly anticipating what he delivers next.

Read Jason's interview with the writer/director of Life Tracker, Joe McClean, here.

Review by Jason Howard, Lead Entertainment Writer

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