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Film Review: “Dashcam” Introduces a Compelling Mystery That Builds to a Lackluster Finish

Written by: Matt Patti | October 12th, 2021

Film poster: “Dashcam”

Dashcam (Christian Nilsson, 2021) 2 out of 4 stars.

In the world we live in today, footage taken from a car’s dashcam is much sought-after material. Whether used in a legal dispute over an accident or to show the actions of law enforcement, dashcam video holds secrets that are important to those involved and to the general public. The government, also, might take a keen interest in such footage when it comes to police brutality and questionable use of force. However, when a suspicious traffic stop of a controversial public official leads to a heavy exchange of fire and two deaths, the government may be very careful what they do with such footage. In director Christian Nilsson’s Dashcam, this situation creates an intriguing mystery that unfortunately ends in a disappointing fashion.

The film centers around news editor Jake (Eric Tabach, What We Found) who is working late on Halloween night in order to create a video package for a news station. Jake awaits dashcam footage from a traffic stop in which disgraced former Attorney General Lieberman was stopped by a police officer. The official report claims that as soon as the officer pulled over Lieberman, Lieberman started shooting and the officer fired back, and that’s how both wound up dead. When Jake is finally sent the dashcam footage, he is also accidentally sent an email with confidential materials contained within. Curious, Jake opens the files and finds bodycam footage, audio, and autopsy reports which strongly conflict with the official statement. Now, Jake is faced with an extremely important decision: run the news package with just the dashcam footage as his boss has requested, or reveal this new classified information at the risk of repercussions. As the night goes on, Jake finds that the second option becomes much riskier than he could have imagined.

Eric Tabach in DASHCAM ©Gravitas Ventures

Dashcam employs a unique storytelling device in that much of the film is spent on a video editor’s computer screen. For those who have experience in video editing, the film will come across as extremely relatable, portraying many of the struggles that editors face every day, especially in a fast-paced work environment. For those who do not know much about post-production, the film provides an intriguing look into the life of an editor. Jake is also a sympathetic enough character to be relatable to anybody. He wants to be a news anchor with all his heart, but is stuck working as a news editor. He views this leak of sensitive information as his big ticket and perhaps a way for him to report a breaking story.

Unfortunately, the film’s biggest strength also leads to its biggest downfall. The intricate mystery that Jake attempts to piece together one small bit at a time draws the audience in and leaves them guessing for much of the runtime. The different sources he uses all seem to contradict each other and lead to very intriguing discoveries as to what really happened. Unfortunately, the way the film ends leaves more questions than answers. The plot builds and builds until it reaches a peak but then, after that, there is little payoff. The film fizzles out completely and ends very abruptly, leaving the viewer scratching their head, and not in a good way. For a plot that has so much potential, the culmination of it is quite unsatisfying and leaves a lot to be desired, souring the rest of the promising story.

Still from DASHCAM ©Gravitas Ventures

It is difficult to rate this film, as I enjoyed most of it up until the very end. It just goes to show how a poor conclusion can work against the rest of an otherwise well-made film. Some endings make films a must to rewatch and even better upon a second viewing; this film does the opposite. Many key plot points are not done justice by the finale and are therefore made worse. The film is still a fun, twisty ride through much of the runtime with a strong central character and a different, fresh way of telling a story. However, with the film’s undesirable ending, it is impossible for me to give it an overall positive recommendation. Fitting enough, just like most dashcam footage, Dashcam doesn’t tell the whole complete story, and suffers immensely from it.

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Matt Patti is a Stevenson University alumnus who graduated with a degree in Film & Moving Image, with a concentration in producing and writing and a minor in communication. He has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films since a very young age. Matt has recently moved to the Baltimore area and currently works full-time as a Video Production Assistant. He also enjoys creating short films with Baltimore-area friends to enter into contests as well as purely for the love of the craft.

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