6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 27th June 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Steven Gomez

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, David Ajala, Thure Lindhardt, Mike Noble, Tom McKay, Kelly Gough, Osi Okerafor and Bentley Nalu

Writer: Steven Gomez


KILL-COMMAND_UK-QUAD-600x426Steven Gomez’s debut is one of the better original sci-fis out there at the moment. Doing wonders with a smallish budget it rivals a lot of bigger films for ideas. Kill Command smuggles some interesting ideas into a standard ‘men on a mission’ template. So it delivers top notch action as well as giving you pause to stop and think too.

A small team of soldiers are summoned to an island on a training exercise. What begins as a routine skirmish with some drones and self-automated weaponry, someone somewhere wants to see how some new advanced robots work in a simulated combat situation. Alongside the group of soldiers is a cyborg observer (VANESSA KIRBY – JUPITER ASCENDING) who programmes the robots at assmebly line stage. When the new robots begin to pick off the soldiers in a series of ambushes, the cyborg comes under suspiscion as being in league with the tech.

The soldiers are a basic lot, but most of the boring ones are picked off in rough order of interoduction on the helicopter ride in. This is where the film flounders, characterisation is minimal before the shit hits the fan. Only three of the 8 soldiers are given anything to do besides die promptly. One is characterised by having a robot eye implant (BENTLEY NALU) to make him a better sniper, but that’s hardly depth. Thure Lindhardt (THE BORGIAS) is the sarge but he makes zero impact. It’s down to David Ajala (FAST AND FURIOUS 6) and he gets the most interesting character out of the humans. He is inquistive about the cyborg because he’s never worked closely with one before and he’s genuinely interested in the place technology can take the human race, as opposed to the other ‘techist’ squad members. The cyborg is a complex character, who was born without full use of her body until the ‘company’ offered to complete her if she worked for them. She has a natural affinity for how the malevolent machines work and she could be the only one with the key to saving her squad.

The new robots look like a deadly, giant version of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, but despite this they are menacing. Remember Ed209‘s malfunction? Well when the characters go up to sleeping robots to download / upload / fiddle you feel the urge to hold your breath. They are characterised with some eerie sound bites like repeating the word ‘Error’ before going batshit.

Kill Command works as a good, sleak action sci-fi and it has a nice bit of icing on about the nature of sentience in man-made tech. But it doesn’t try to be Bladerunner or Solaris. So whilst a longer cut may have allowed for some characterisation and depth to be sketched into the lesser members of the squadron, it still works well. The robots are fantastic too.

6.5 out of 10 – Slick, action sci-fi with very cool special effects and some interesting side stories. Thin characterisation almost ruins it. Recommended for the best low-budget sci-fi of 2016 so far.

Review below by Matt Usher




One thought on “KILL COMMAND

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    Some people are never satisfied. You give them a well-made, low budget, high-concept film, with good actors, a simple story and good effects and they’re still not satisfied. Maybe I just don’t like films? That would explain a lot. But I’m not sure it quite explains how I nearly died from boredom watching this well-made, low budget high-concept film.

    Some soldiers in the near future are heading off for a Routine Training Exercise in a Forest Of Peril on an Island of Threat (yes, they’re going to die). Tagging along is Vanessa Kirby, a very good theatre actress with a very bad track-record in films. She plays Mills, a scientist/inventor/technical bod, who, in order to be really good at technical stuff, has been augmented and has the internet in her head and some technological wotsits in her eye, and a thing in the back of her neck which makes her some sort of semi-cyborgy-type person/thing. Or something. (The back of the DVD calls her a ‘tech head’ and ‘a mysterious coder whose brain is interfaced with a computer’.) I know playing a cyborgy person can be an interesting challenge. But only if the script makes it an interesting challenge. But all Mills does is stand about looking mildly intrigued, then duck whenever someone/something tries to shoot her (which is frequently). Some of the other soldiers aren’t too happy about carrying this passenger, and some are fine with it. And that’s about it as far as tensions within the group are concerned. Until the deaths begin of course.

    Yes, the training exercise goes wrong and the pretend battle with a pretend enemy turns into a real battle with a real enemy. And the real enemy are some big robot killer things – the next generation in warfare apparently, and something which Mills has been working on in the lab (I think). Maybe she wasn’t a very good killer robot designer after all, seeing as her superiors just decide to pop her into the warzone / soup / Forest of Peril without telling her. Which is a bit unfair, as the evidence of the film shows that they’re very good killer robots which slaughter the cast with tedious efficiency. (Good grief, I’m 41 years old and writing about the efficacy of fictitious killer robots.) The robots even know the standard kill order for this sort of film (a black chap takes the first bullet – though to be fair, there are three black chaps in the squad so it’s not like he’s the token black guy) (mind you, they do all die) (as does everyone else, more or less in reverse order of military rank) (it’s one of those films where the baddies just pick everyone off at seven minute intervals until you neither know nor care if there’s anyone left) (or what the point of it all was). And that’s it really.

    But credit where it is due. The killer robots are very intricately designed by someone who clearly enjoyed designing them (it’s rare in these shallows of low-budget British film-making to find evidence of actual enthusiasm from a supposedly creative force so I salute whoever was responsible for designing the killer robots of death). And they’re surprisingly well realised – when I watched the film the CGI was extremely good and fitted into the live-action with some ease. How long before the effect wears off is anybody’s guess, so if you fancy this film (and I think I’m really selling it at the moment) see it quick – nothing ages as quickly as computer graphics.

    Films where the cast are picked off one by one can be quite fun if the characters are interesting or if the threat is intriguing. This is not the case here – the characters have been assembled from the standard catalogue of stereotypes (actually they’re not even that despite the best efforts of David Ajala and Thure Lindhardt as the main soldiers), whilst the threat is a well-realised but anodyne machine. What about the themes? Survival, man vs machine, the evolution of the machines, surely they are all current, important subjects which a moderately sci-fi-style action film can use in interesting ways? Probably. But not here. This is more of a shoot-em-up computer game with relatively little shooting and no thoughts about the potential of technology.

    If there’s a moral to the story it’s probably something like: don’t join the army for life because you’ll probably be replaced by a robot, so if you do join the army it’s probably best if you retire early or indeed get killed by a robot which will then take your job.

    But is there any reason to watch the film aside from its currently rather good special effects (which probably aren’t anywhere near to the effects in all those blockbuster superhero films I can’t be bothered to watch) (and yet I can be bothered to watch (and review) KILL COMMAND) (I think I need to review my film-viewing priorities) (and my life as well, obviously, after all here I am moaning about a killer robot movie)? The answer is no. (Go back to before the brackets to check what the question actually was.)

    KILL COMMAND is the acme of perfectly well-made adequate mundanity. It’s well acted, well paced, the script is tight, the effects are excellent. It’s a good film to have on your CV. It’s just not a good film to watch. Although thoroughly competent, and, as far as technology is concerned, several, nay, many notches above anything else in the low budget bargain bins, it’s quite incredibly empty. But I’ll try to be positive: I suppose this is quite fun if you’re still into Action Force.

    It’s not the machines which make war we need to be worried about it’s the machines which churn out dot-to-dot film-making-by-numbers fodder like this. (Not literally, obviously, it makes more sense to run away from a killer robot than a boring DVD but I thought it’d be a good sign-off but then again maybe not.)

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