Written by: Matt Patti | November 5th, 2020
Triggered (Alastair Orr, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
There are some films that lure audiences by premise alone; an intriguing concept can capture one’s attention even if a film is not made by famed filmmakers or features no well-known stars. Such is the case with director Alastair Orr’s Triggered. The unique, fun concept drew me in and the surprisingly well-executed additional elements of the film kept me engaged. So many films with a unique concept fail miserably in other areas, thus making the entire film fail. But when a film with a compelling premise can not only pull off that premise well but also execute on technical elements and character development, successfully create tension and feature decent performances, it’s a refreshing and welcome sight. Triggered falls into the latter category and accomplishes this feat.
Triggered begins with an older man strapping a high-tech vest onto someone in the middle of the woods. Then, the film cuts to a group of nine friends sitting around a campfire. They chat about typical young-adult drama, but more so than usual. The tensions between members of the group are evident from the get-go, which makes things more intriguing later. After going to bed, they all wake up in the middle of the night with unbreakable bomb vests strapped to their chests. These technologically advanced vests feature lights and a timer to illustrate the countdown to detonation: blue means you have the most time left out of everyone; green means you have a decent amount left; and red means you have the least amount of time. Each person is given a different time on their vest, and when the timer hits zero … BOOM, the vest explodes. However, they soon find that it is possible to increase the amount of time a person has left … by killing someone else. Will the so-called friends work together to find a solution, or will they turn on each other to increase the time on their own vests?
The clever concept of the film is clearly its driving force and its largest asset. The filmmakers do a great job of exploring and explaining the technology of the vests and everything that they are capable of, as well as establishing the rules for the “game” that the group of young adults find themselves playing. However, the film has more to offer than only unique vests. All of the technical elements are done very well, specifically the cinematography and visual design of the vests.
The performances from all of the actors and actresses are great, if not noteworthy. The script is well-written and flows well. The dialogue between the characters, while awkward at some moments, is overall compelling and entertaining to observe. The tension between all the characters is very present and well-done, as the audience doesn’t always know whom to trust and who is truly on who’s side. There are a few good twists that don’t feel forced or out of left field and instead work to explain the full story more than just being used for shock value.
The film has a few moments that make you question what the director is going for, but they’re few and far between. There are some strange music choices and some dialogue seems out of place at times. One of the characters also gets a bit too wild near the end of the film and borders on being unbelievable. Also, throughout the first half of the film it is extremely difficult to keep track of all nine main characters. Not only do many of the characters more-or-less look the same, but they also act very similar, at least in the first half of the film. They begin to distance themselves from each other midway through the second act, however.
Overall, Triggered is a pleasant surprise: a film with a unique, gimmicky concept that also succeeds in the other important areas that are important in films. It builds a decent amount of tension while also providing some fun and riveting sequences. The film also presents the captivating hypothetical question of what we as viewers would do if we were in an outlandish situation such as this. It’s fascinating to see how the characters in the film act towards each other, some turning on each other and trying to sabotage others and some trying to get everyone to work together. The film achieves great drama between the characters due to their response to this difficult question. Even with the film’s few issues and instances of confusion, Triggered is a great accomplishment in the art of achieving a director’s vision and executing a clever idea well.
[Samuel Goldwyn Films will release Triggered on Demand and Digital November 6th.]