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Cyberpunk Short Film Review: ‘Ninety Seconds’
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Ninety Seconds title card

Ninety Seconds
Directed by Gerard Lough
Written by Gerard Lough
Starring Andrew Norry, Michael Parle, Claire J. Blennerhassett
Arcadia Films
Release date: August 9, 2012 (limited)

The first thing we see in George Lough’s latest thrilling cyberpunk short film, Ninety Seconds (watch the trailer below the article), is this quote: “The instrument could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.” The quote is from George Orwell’s book 1984, which taught us how “Big Brother is watching you” via two-way screens everywhere.

So, we have an idea of the uncomfortable places Ninety Seconds may take us. We’re instantly intrigued by its darkness shot through with cool music, nifty graphics, and well-placed blindingly bright lights. Set in the not-so-distant future just after a very real-life scandal involving celebrity phones being hacked by unscrupulous (the film uses the word ‘desperate’) journalists, the film’s premise is that this scandal gives birth to a whole new breed of private investigators called Techs.

A client with enough dough could hire a Tech to “invade a person’s privacy in the most extreme way.” This is what Mark, the main character, does for a living. In the first scene, Mark is being hired by a client called Philips to watch, listen, and record the every move of a dancer named Elly. When you see this movie, which you no doubt will want to, keep an eye on Philips’ face just after Mark leaves. It’s quite chilling.

Another scene shows us that maybe this extreme hacking business is not such a spectacular idea and perhaps that is the very point George Lough is trying to make with Ninety Seconds. There is a client who views surveillance footage of his wife lovingly greeting a man who isn’t him. Disgusted by what he sees, hired hacker Ralfi, Mark’s partner, tells him, “Well at least now you know the truth. Information is power, so they say.” However, this knowledge, this power, doesn’t lead to anything remotely edifying. Maybe it’s better not to know these things until life reveals to us the inevitable truth of who we and the people in our lives really are. The client replies to Ralfi, “Ignorance is bliss. They say that, too.”

Mark later tries to justify to Ralfi what they do for a living. He says they “profit from paranoia,” but says it with little conviction that seems to justify his role to himself. A few scenes later, Mark reveals his own paranoia by secretly watching Ralfi outside her home with one of those silly looking listening devices. The tension keeps amplifying throughout the film with screen shots of shady characters, masked and hooded, combing through what we think is Mark’s home while Mark busies himself watching Elly. Perhaps Mark’s paranoia is the only thing he can justify.

All is revealed during the satisfying conclusion of Ninety Seconds. The title is taken from the edited footage presented to a client, which generally amounts to ninety seconds after all the boring parts have been cut out. Filmed in beautiful Ireland and compellingly scored, Ninety Seconds is stylistically appealing. It’s a sexy film to watch.

George Lough is also known for his short film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story The Boogeyman.

Watch the trailer for Ninety Seconds here:

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