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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Review: Level 16

Director: Danishka Esterhazy
Screenplay: Danishka Esterhazy
Year: 2019

In a moment in time in which women have more rights than ever in history (even when there is still a long road ahead), it has become popular to study in movies the topic of how women have overcome oppression. This has happened in both veridic and fantastic ways. The fantastic is the one we are concerned today, where we have this story based in a dystopian future.

In “Level 16” Vivien is a sixteen-year-old young woman trapped in the Vestalis Academy, a prison style boarding school, who keeps to herself and takes risks for no one. This is until she reunites with Sophia, an old friend who betrayed her. Together both girls start a dangerous search to unravel the horrific truth behind their imprisonment. Soon they have to run to save their lives or die trying.

“Level 16” presents itself trying to be an innovative idea, but that is not anything we have not seen before. My purpose with these comments is not to say that this is a copy or that is not entertaining, but to get to its main problem, which lies in keeping always on the safe side and not risking much. For me, it is a story with plenty of untapped potentials.

Something that the director and screenwriter Danishka Esterhazy (“Black Field”) does very well is making the viewer part of the story. In every moment the build-up is kept inside the academy, mainly following the development of Vivien, interpreted by Katie Douglas (“Mary Kills People”). The events that take place and the information available about the place comes from the daily routine of these girls to which we are exposed. Once Vivien and Sophia, interpreted by Celina Martin (“iZombie”) start investigating what is happening in this place, we are given the information at the same time it is discovered by them. This allows to keep twists unexpected and that they work well to keep the plot interesting.

The visuals are also well crafted to evoke the feelings of these girls in this place. Soft and sober colors, especially different tones of gray, are symbolic of the monotonous routine and the docile character of them. The only radiant thing in them is the hope they have of being adopted, a promise made to them since their arrival at this place and for many, this is the sole reason they are docile and obedient. The acting is fundamental to drive this feeling, being all of them correct, particularly Douglas and Martin, who are the ones in charge of moving the story.

“Level 16” is not a bad movie, but it has a lot of wasted potential. It never stands out as a horror or science fiction movie but always stays as a thriller and in safe terrain. I was left wishing for that disturbing moment that will take this study of oppression and female freedom to another level, and in the moments it had the opportunity they decided to take the conventional and safe approach instead of risking it trying to bring something bold and original, which is its great sin through the whole movie.

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