Director: Patrick Viktor Monroe
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Salmon, Paris Winter Monroe, Nick Moran
Watch online: iTunes
Benedict Cumberbatch is surely the world’s busiest man. This year alone, he has worked on seven films. But while he romps into cinemas as a towering dragon in The Hobbit, the project that perhaps leaves the biggest impression is Little Favour. The short film, directed by first-timer Patrick Viktor Monroe, presents Cumberbatch as something we have never really seen before: a near-topless, ass-kicking hero.
Cumberbatch plays Wallace, a former serviceman struggling to adjust to normal life after a tour overseas – only to be contacted by his old comrade, James (Salmon). Why? Because he has a favour to ask.
It’s here that you might expect a guns-blazing assault on an old enemy. Or a heart-warming tale of redemption for the PTSD-suffering soldier. Patrick Viktor Monroe delves neither. Instead, the personal trainer for Tom Hardy on films such as Bronson and Warrior delivers a knockout blow with something really quite astonishing.
Shooting everything at night with glossy shadows, Monroe ramps up the suspense from the start. James and Ace’s meeting is an exchange of silhouettes, separated by the black bar of a steel girder; a subtle bit of framing that sets the mood to mysterious. Then, out of the enigmatic dark, steps the film’s big surprise: Paris Winter Monroe, James’ (and Patrick’s) daughter. Her brief appearance brings a flood of questions to James’ past, a strong, young woman with purpose – and one hell of a stare.
It’s that kind of small touch that gives Little Favour its unflinching punch. Monroe gets his camera in close to capture lots of the action in close-up, relying on the tiniest facial twitch to add depth to the deceptively simple plot.
At the centre of it all: Benedict. Smeared in blood and sweat and wearing a white vest, even his hair is unrecognisable. Nick Moran has fun as an Eastern European interrogating him, countering Cumberbatch’s grimace with a grin. When the pair trade blows, it comes as no shock that under Monroe’s direction, the fists fly with a brutal realism. The action sequences are cut together by Nigel Galt (who edited Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut) at a cracking pace.
Little Favour was top of the iTunes short films chart before it was even released
Cumberbatch, of course, will get most of the attention for the film, which is released on iTunes today. The short was crowd-funded on Indiegogo in May 2013. The target? £25,000. In just 12 days, they raised £86,240 – over seven grand a day. That’s the kind of public support the Sherlock star has right now. And with his slate of projects already spilling over into 2015, that shows no sign of slowing down.
What a joy, then, to see him investing time in Monroe’s fantastic movie: Benedict may be the star name, delivering a strong, against-type star turn, but the talented Patrick is the one who stays in your mind after the credits roll. Clocking in at 21 sharp minutes, the director doesn’t waste a second of screen time (or a penny of their budget), producing a lean, slick thriller that wraps up everything tightly yet leaves you asking questions. Top of the list: what’s he making next?
The good news is that Monroe is already working on a feature version of Little Favour. The short film is produced by SunnyMarch, a company set up by Benedict Cumberbatch, Adam Ackland, Adam Selves and Ben Dillon. With Little Favour already at number one in the iTunes short films chart before it’s even released, the prospects are looking good for a follow-up. With a little luck, Benedict Cumberbatch’s schedule could soon get even busier.
Little Favour is available to buy now from iTunes for £1.99 in HD – or £1.49 in SD.