Two assassins named Herbert and Jacinda wait outside the hotel where their target is staying. Neither of them knows one another; their organization pairs them together anonymously for their protection.
They meet for the first time, go over the target -- a dangerous woman set to deliver a "package" tomorrow --and devise a plan to take her out. But soon they begin to question their mission. Are they going to administer justice, or are they committing murder? Only one of them knows the truth.
Directed by Benjamin South and written by A.M. Khalifa from his own short story, this layered, taut sci-fi short blends thoughtful, dynamic craft and intricate world-building and storytelling. The result is an entertaining, engaging thriller that intrigues and lures viewers into a complicated, political netherworld that teases at questions of identity, allegiance and power.
Shot with a dark, polished gleam, the narrative balances many layers, blending past and present and the political and personal. But the core of the story is the scene between the two assassins, Herbert and Jacinda. These two strangers have to trust one another and work together in a high-tension situation.
Despite the relatively intimate narrative core, the film has an expansive sense of the world using the characters' dialogue to envision the break-in and assassination. The film shows off its action-genre bona fides in these sequences with panache, but the real tension comes between the characters when one begins to doubt the rightness of what they're doing.
Actors Shaq B. Grant and Laura Hana as Herbert and Jacinda, respectively, play the pair of assassins with both cool competence and more human flickers of hesitation and apprehension. But there is more than meets the eye, revealing even deeper layers of deception than one of them realizes.
Coolly intriguing and handsomely mounted as a production, "The Ark" is a rich world, with a preponderance of ideas and world-building that the short film format constrains somewhat. But the fundamental elements are strong, and they hint at a much larger storytelling arena for a series or feature. A mid-end credits scene also indicates a wider story beyond the conclusion, as well as even bigger questions of fanaticism, power and indoctrination. But even in this more compact format, "The Ark" expertly teases at a darker, unseen underbelly under the tidy surfaces of civilization -- a feeling perhaps peculiar to modern society, and ripe for bringing to life.