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Canopy: Sounds of Silence, World War II Style
By Brandon Judell
Khan Chittenden as Jim.
Director/writer Aaron Wilson's "Canopy" begins in stillness, ends in muteness, and in between seldom a word will be uttered. There are be bird tweets though, and the reverberations of bombings, the segments of a tune or two, the thrashing of crickets in heat, plus a few gasps of human pain. All in all, the screenplay offers up two perfect roles for actors with poor memory recall.
The year is 1942; Singapore is being invaded by the Japanese; and Jim (Khan Chittenden), a young Australian fighter pilot, wakes up to find himself entangled in inhospitable tree branches. Struggling a bit, he finally succeeds in loosening himself from his snared parachute and drops to the ground. Inventorying what he has to survive, he checks off a map, a compass, a knife of sorts, a pouch for water, and a chocolate bar. Sadly, his gun has gone missing.
Jim looks around. All he sees are trees, brambles, and mud, a Thoreauvian paradise except for intermittent gunshots piercing the solitude and the unabating possibility of being slaughtered or captured by the enemy. What is a companionless soldier to do? Why not walk, crouch, and crawl through his verdant environment? And that's what Jim does for the next 20 minutes until he comes across Seng (Tzu-yi Mo), a Singapore-Chinese resistance fighter.
After realizing they are not each other's adversary, which isn't that easy due to language barriers, the boys join up and walk, crouch, and crawl through the rest of the tale until . . . . Well, let's just say Lady Luck is taking a breather when she's needed most.
Apparently, "Canopy" is part of the genre now labeled "minimalist survival narratives" (e.g. "Gravity," "All is Lost," "Cast Away," "127 Hours"). Sumptuously shot by Stefan Duscio, what this offering lacks that the others don't are a true sense of character. You really don't get to know who Jim or Seng are. They do seem personable and brave, and that might be enough if this movie was "moment-by-moment enthralling" and an "extraordinary cinematic experience" as the production notes claim.
But maybe this unknowability is what Wilson is going for. Young men thrown into battle are often so wet behind the ears they haven't yet developed their complete personas before they're handed a rifle and a plane to fly plus asked to be ready to die for their countries.
Nonetheless, considering their constraints, the actors hold up quite well, allowing Jim and Seng to believably and poignantly bond. As for Mr. Wilson, one can't help but look forward to his future, hopefully more verbose enterprises.
Director/Writer: Aaron Wilson
Producer: Katrina Fleming
Cast: Khan Chittenden, Tzu-yi Mo, Robert Menzies.
Watch the trailer
Copyright © Brandon Judell 2014
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