Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Cillian Murphy.
“The Silent City” (2006 Short)
Written and Directed by Ruairi Robinson
Every minute counts in a seven minute short film. The response I had against the first minute of “The Silent City” was visceral, where I had to convince myself to keep watching.
First there’s the gas mask. That by itself isn’t condemnable but the last time I was happy to see somebody wearing one was the Doctor Who two-parter, “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” Gas masks have become overused, not for accuracy and breathing but a look. If the soldiers in the futuristic “Silent City” needed them they’d be regulation, not seen on one guy who gets killed in the first minute.
It’s that death scene, zooming in on a head shot, that I have a problem with. Used right away, it’s all shock factor, and if you’re going to include that kind of violence you either have to go B-movie exaggerated or take it seriously. This scene does prepare expectations to be subverted later, when a second sniper appears, but can’t be worth the dislike stirred up first.
Drop that scene, and start the short after the title card, and “The Silent City” is an eerie film that uses a low budget to great effect. Fast cuts from an extreme close-up on Don Wycherley’s eyes, to him grabbing his gun, immediately put you on edge. Part of a three person unit, you don’t know where they are or who they’re afraid of but you believe they have reason to fret. Using what looks like a dentistry mirror to see around corners, they’re already at a disadvantage when their man on watch, Cillian Murphy, falls asleep at the job (his expression at being woken up enjoyably authentic).
Authentic is a good word for the performances of all three actors (Garvan McGrath being the final member of their team). After an explosion leaves two of the three badly wounded, a video game-like rotation around the frozen third man continues until the cigarette falling from his mouth hits the ground.
There’s a bleak, comic effect to the survivor shifting from shock to action with the drop of the cigarette. Meanwhile, the two wounded soldiers demonstrate inverse reactions to their situation: a slow, dawning realization of what’s happened and an instant recession to cries.
The dusty, rocky surroundings and solar flares feel old school and other worldly. The music by Robert Arkins, Brian Crosby and Nick Seymour, with Rory Pierce on cello, is non-negotiable for keeping the environment hazardous and full of lurking dangers.
The short ends with footage from the point of view of an unseen threat, the electronic whirring of its motor, as it slickly and effortlessly smashes through a car, leaving you nervous for the unit’s chances.
“The Silent City” is available to watch HERE.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
With every additional viewing I’ve been able to look past that opening scene but haven’t grown to like it. This short has too much going for it to penalized by its start point but that’s exactly what could happen, if people don’t see it through to the end.
Check back tomorrow for Cillian Murphy as a man who owes a guy money.