Making a good film is not always that easy. There are many elements that have to work like a well-oiled machine to produce an interesting product. Sometimes, if one of these elements is off, that becomes a distraction to the overall film. The one element that will withstand it all, though, is a good story. If you have a compelling story, minor issues fall to the wayside and the audience never loses focus. Julian Jay Burton’s film, Dormant, isn’t perfect, but the story and characters keep you intrigued from beginning to the end.
Written and directed by Burton, Dormant follows Detective Jordan Long (Burton) as he takes a new assignment, an undercover assignment that will place him in a new life and environment for a while. His goal is to find the truth behind a string of disappearances and murders of decorated FBI and CIA agents. The disturbing fact, which is why fresh eyes were brought on, is that the fingerprints on the murders are a deceased CIA agent, Nigel Goodman. Through the course of the investigation, Detective Long is forced to face not only the agency’s demons but his own.
There are a few things that unfortunately plague the film throughout. At times the sound levels vary between scenes. That’s not to say they are inaudible, but you end up playing with the volume button more then you would have liked. The other slightly peculiar element to Dormant involves the use of flashbacks. The flashbacks in and of themselves are not perplexing, but the shift to this segment is a bit jarring. It doesn’t take long before you are back in the groove of the film, but in the first few seconds of the flashback, you are playing catch-up.
Even with the issues with the sound and orienting yourself in a flashback, the audience isn’t drawn away from the story. From the moment Arthur Huff (Tom Hagale) appears on screen you know something is amiss. It might be the way Huff stares deadeye into the abyss, but you know you want to stay away from that guy. This ends up being conflicting because you can’t stop watching because you want to know what exactly is going on with this character. Information is given in just the right amounts about each character and what the overall story will be that fills in the gaps and keeps you following the breadcrumbs that are being laid before you. There is never a time during your viewing of Dormant that you aren’t wanting to find out more.
More is exactly what the audience ends up finding out. Through twists and turns with both the story at hand and the case under investigation, the connective lines between people become strained. Even As the story becomes slightly clearer, things don’t line up, and questions start popping up. This is pretty common in mystery films, and what Dormant is able to do so well is answer them. It might not be right away, but the payoff will happen. None of the questions I had remained unanswered. If anything, this made me want to watch the movie again to see if I can find clues that I missed earlier.
What also keeps the audience engaged is the use of interesting angles and cinematography. There are a few times throughout Dormant that the camera becomes Detective Long’s eyes. The audience witnesses his point of view and the confusing situations that surround him at varies moments in the story. To be fair, with this film being a mystery, there are arguably multiple times that things don’t add up as they should, and the use of special camera techniques might become oversaturated. Instead, Burton chose to use the cinematography in a meaningful way, utilizing fancy camera work only when needed. It’s deliberate in its execution, which in turn makes its use in the film that much more powerful.
Dormant in an enthralling thriller. The audience is second-guessing what they believe to be real and what is manufactured at every turn within the story. Every internal question is answered by the end of the film. Burton is a good storyteller, and I’m interested to see what he has up his sleeve next.
Dormant is available on Amazon Prime.
Written by Lisa M Mejia
Images provided by Bermuda Image, LLC