Bit of an unusual piece, this one, as it’s not exactly a review or a feature, rather it’s a little look at an upcoming project I was lucky enough to see recently – The Film With No Name.
Now, as the film is still a work in progress (it was shown with rough VFX, a temp score and in need of ADR in places), I’m obviously going to stay as spoiler-free as possible while going into a little detail about the story and hopefully leaving you curious to see it yourself.
The Film With No Name is the brainchild of writer and director Ben Race, and has been in production for well over a decade – in a brief pre-screening slideshow, the online audience was treated to a slew of behind-the-scenes pictures which dated back to 2009, while principle photography apparently took place in fits and starts between 2008 and 2020.
As anyone with any idea about film production knows, this is a very long time, but Ben is self-funding the movie, so it’s likely a case of getting some dates in the diary once there’s some money in the kitty.
What I would say is that you’d never really notice this has been filmed over more than a decade (though if you were that way inclined, you could probably play a little game and speculate on whether the principle cast were actually playing the roles during certain long shots!), and overall, it’s brilliantly shot.
The opening image, of The Man (we don’t get actual names), is visually striking enough to sit comfortably alongside a frame from any big-budget movie (reminded me a little of something from a Christopher Nolan film, or perhaps a Michael Mann shot).
Elsewhere, we’re treated to lush landscapes of grassy fields that look like Van Gogh paintings, and incredible, wide-open and colourful skies that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Breaking Bad, and certain scenes in forests which smack of Barry Sonnenfeld’s work on the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. Again, it’s possible some of these are temporary VFX shots (and I’m at least one of them definitely is), but if the filmmaker can capture anything close to them for the final product, it’ll be impressive.
Now, I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story itself, because I went in pretty cold and loved experiencing it that way. However, I’d say it takes a few tropes you’ll be familiar with and fuses them together to create its own thing – it’s a crime film, except not really. It’s a rescue film, a ‘one last job’ film, a fish out of water story, an odd couple road movie, and it’s a got a sort of Stephen King fantasy flavour, mixed up with a pinch of The Twilight Zone.
If that sounds like a lot to process… well, yeah, it is. When the film ended, I found myself wrestling with ideas about what it meant. A few days on from watching it, I’m still not certain I’ve got my head around it completely, but – and this is an important point – I’d like to see it for a second time.
In some ways, it left me thinking of my experience watching a preview of Censor a few months ago (you can read about that here), in that it looks great, raises similar questions about the past, memory and personal responsibilities, and doesn’t offer easy answers. Some might find that frustrating, and like Censor it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but hey, what is?
Again, this wasn’t the finished version, rather a draft that is currently being finessed by the filmmaker, so there’s a chance things may play out differently by the time the final cut is locked. For me, a couple of sequences got their points across a little quicker than the time they were given, and I’d be curious to see if any changes were made to clarify a few of the less-straightforward plot elements, but the film has a mood and style of its own.
Oh, and there’s a beat during the final act which practically had me punching the air – you’ll know it when you see it.
However it ends up, this is clearly a film that’s had blood, sweat and years go into it, and felt like a great starting point, so I’ll be interested to see how the final film turns out – whatever it ends up being called.