Cyberlante – Film Review
*I supported Cyberlante’s crowdfunding campaign and therefore received a preview screening
Cyberlante is entirely shot on a mobile phone which adds to the intrigue and drama in this enjoyable thriller set within the underground cyber world. Fusing the words cyber-crime and vigilante, Cyberlante explores Matt’s world after moving towns in a bid to escape a criminal lifestyle in hacking but he finds himself unwittingly returning to such world whilst investigating his new boss’ sinister activities towards women. Gavin Gordon as Matt is mesmerising to watch from the outset in a different role for a black protagonist on the fringes of a criminal past. In Cyberlante, these hacking skills can be used for positive or negative means to intriguing effect.
Cyberlante’s successful crowdfunding campaign is part of its selling point as its production forms part of the micro budget independent filming. As mentioned, mobile phone technology was used with a Google Pixel original as the handset of choice which adds to the sensation of grittiness within Cyberlante. Equally, it is impressive to view the panoramic shots of landscapes filmed using a mobile phone. The use of such technology in Cyberlante follows films such as Tangerine by Sean Baker and the recent film The Stunt Double by Damien Chazelle which also explore the capabilities of mobile phone filming. This is certainly an exciting era for films as filmmakers become more creative within such genre which may also permit more access to the industry as most households possess a smartphone. Cyberlante is also a leader in this field given that it is a feature film as many films shot using mobile phone technology have tended to be short films.
The film’s pacing throughout is steady as Matt embarks on his investigation and it is interesting to watch the dynamic between him and his mentor Ozzy in scenes shot outdoors with bridges used as metaphors for the life choices and pathways that can be taken. There are some stunning shots within Cyberlante of the East Midlands by these bridges and streams and the film’s cinematography fully embraces the natural surroundings. The long takes within country fields emphasise the isolation experienced by Matt within a new town. During such moments, Cyberlante also accentuates the naturalistic sounds and allows the audience to absorb the beautiful surroundings.
Interestingly, similar to Searching some of Cyberlante’s scenes are viewed through various forms of technological media. Some characters are only introduced through their appearances on videos and smartphone conversations as Matt delves further into his boss’ activities. Cyberlante treats its audience as an adult and subscribes to the theory of ‘show, don’t tell’ as some of the techniques used by Matt, whilst his hacking skills are highlighted, can be viewed on the screen itself. The film successfully builds up that suspense and even a degree of paranoia as to the level of information within our smartphones that could be similarly extracted by a third party.
Director James Smith’s vision in Cyberlante provides a unique perspective to the genre as there is that focus on the aesthetics of the landscapes compared to other films exploring cybercrime. This assists Cyberlante to maintain a positive veneer despite its subject matter. Fortunately, any disturbing scenes occur off camera and Smith’s focus on Gordon in such moments works well as he is extremely expressive in conveying such horrors to the audience.
However, any sense of true danger is not immediately apparent as it seems so simple for Matt to undertake his investigation. Perhaps he is simply very skilful in hacking but this is an area that could be developed further to create a greater sense of foreboding throughout Cyberlante. As Cyberlante is one of those examples of economical filming, it is only 1 hour 16 minutes in length, the trade-off is that some character development has not been explored fully. Fortunately, the taut editing within Cyberlante and the use of intercuts ensure that Cyberlante remains riveting despite there being the focus on an investigation occurring behind a computer screen.
Refreshingly, Cyberlante transfers the action from being fixated on the computing elements to examining other relationships within Matt’s life and his outdoor walks compared to other thrillers in the genre which may have a dark room as the sole location. Equally, there are more female characters to be seen compared to any other cyber-crime thriller, which usually have lots of anorak wearing men!
Indeed, the production team behind Cyberlante are at the forefront of encouraging diversity within their casting. Within Cyberlante, the lead role is performed by a black actor and as mentioned there are a number of female roles to be seen. Furthermore, there are also a number of female crew members as the screenplay was written by Caroline Spence who is also the producer.
Cyberlante, is a compelling film to watch particularly for the gripping performance by Gordon and the film’s introduction of a positive perspective within the world of cyber thrillers. Cyberlante breathes new life within the genre without relying on stereotypes and provides a fascinating insight into the advances made within mobile phone filmmaking.
Cyberlante will be released on Amazon on Tuesday 29 September 2020 within the UK and the US. The Amazon links are below: