Film Review: ‘Infinitum: Subject Unknown’ Tells a Timely Tale of Lockdown Fears

Infinitum: Subject Unknown is a psychological sci-fi thriller directed by Matthew Butler-Hart. In it, we follow Jane, a test subject, as she tries to escape the confines of an unknown city devoid of people. However, unknown to her, she is being watched by the Wytness research center, as they test her abilities to travel between parallel universes and shape reality to her will.

This is the entire conceit of the film. Due to its development during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, Infinitum thrives off its minimalistic nature. It doesn’t try to add complexity to the plot or characters, instead of keeping a focus on the moment-to-moment actions of Jane. It’s a film that uses the science fiction genre to emulate common fears and feelings of today’s generations, using claustrophobia and the futility of living in a time loop to recreate living through a pandemic. And that emulation is executed effectively through the direction of Matthew Butler-Hart, the acting of Tori Butler-Hart, as well as the editing of William Honeyball (who also co-wrote the score)

The small cast and crew of Infinitum all work together effectively to create a timely piece of art, whilst living through the restrictions of a pandemic. The isolated premise of the film allows for sequences to play out with no more than one character present at a time, and Tori Butler-Hart anchors the film through her performance as Jane. Although the line delivery can at times feel stiff, her body language sells the performance and premise, being all at once panicked and trying to push through each of the trials associated with being trapped. As well, the supporting performances from Ian McKellen and Conleth Hill, work to resolve the questions that the audience forms through the film, whilst creating many more through their short sequences. It’s all at once engaging and terrifying, and along with the voices of Holly Dale Spencer and Ben Lee as observation scientists, it creates tension and feelings of hopelessness.  

Heightening the tension is the music by Tom Kane, which works in tandem with the editing by William Honeyball to be uneasy and harrowing. Even when the score isn’t present, the tension doesn’t fall; if anything, the tension increases. It builds throughout, only calming down during the daily resets, which has sound cues that can only be compared to cat claws on a chalkboard: terrifying. And to cap off this small production, the cinematography, shot by Matthew Butler-Hart on an iPhone, is both functional and breathtaking, pulling you into Jane’s mind.

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However, even for its 90-minute runtime, this film can feel overlong. Some scenes and resets have too much time are given to them, which can remove the interest the audience has in the film. By choosing to be very minimalistic in its scope, Infinitum: Subject Unknown feels a tad too long. It would work extremely well as a short single-player video game, or as a short film, but at 90 minutes, it is a bit long.

Despite its minor pacing issues, there is a tension throughout Infinitum that is unique, due to the limited availability of information to the audience and the hair-raising score. It’s an impressive feat for a film. It captures generational fears of being lost in a world moving without them, utilizing lockdown restrictions to create a tension felt by all. It’s a slow, meandering film, that tells an effective story, but it could have been more interesting as a short film or as a single-player video game. It’s a film that proves anyone can be a filmmaker, so long as you have the tenacity to push through each trial the world throws at you.

Watch the trailer here.



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Written by benjaminwiebe

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