Short film review: Captcha (2015)
James R | On 10, May 2015
Director: Ed Tracy
Cast: Arthur Darvill, Amy Beth Hayes
Watch Captcha online in the UK: We Are Colony
Every Sunday, we review a short film and tell you where to watch it. We call it Short Film Sunday.
“Do you believe in destiny?” Katya (Amy Beth Hayes) asks Mel (Arthur Darvill) at the start of Captcha, as they gaze at each other.
It’s not the first time that Arthur Darvill has been associated with the notion of a love that lasts forever: he won the nation’s hearts as Rory in Doctor Who, an everyday bloke who was prepared to wait years for his dream girl. It was a role perfectly suited to Darvill because he’s such a sympathetic performer: since then, he’s been equally charming in roles as varied as Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus and Guy in the musical Once, not to mention Broadchurch’s conflicted Rev. Coates. It’s testament to his chameleonic likability that he manages the same trick in Captcha, a short film released today on We Are Colony.
He plays Mel, the victim of an operation carried out by the beautiful Katya, who moves in next door. A timid hello and a quick drink later and she has him on the bed, out cold, and is injecting something into his neck. The honeytrap has been a staple of spy thrillers for years, but Captcha comes with a stylish noir tint, which sees the sting happen to the good guy for a change.
Darvill is great, his open face conveying everything from shock and anger to trust and affection, while Hayes brings a believable ambiguity to her agent. They both suit the 1940s setting, all hats and glasses, and Hayes is firmly at home in the femme fatale role. The easy chemistry between them allows director Ed Tracy to build a world around their relationship, filling the screen with retro-futuristic flourishes: we hear a disembodied voice (the chilling Zoe Wanamaker) ordering Katya about, before she gets out a brilliantly designed practical gizmo, which makes you wince every time it’s used.
Tracy’s script – co-written with Justin Trefgarne – is centred on the question of whether you can trust someone who’s betrayed you, a dilemma that fuses the romance and wider reality together: it’s no coincidence that the emotional climax is accompanied by a superb sweeping shot over an other-worldly London, a moment that reveals how subtly the entire universe has been assembled. (Supporting turns from Kayvan Novak and Nigel Lindsay bring additional clout to the backdrop.)
Throughout, a driving piano score from Sam Williams propels our couple like a train through the fog of uncertainty, giving events a momentum that overcomes the odd note of on-the-nose dialogue and leaves you wanting to know where their story is headed – the news that it’s being developed into a feature film makes you hope that destiny does exist after all. A noir Steampunk romance within 15 minutes? Captcha is as imaginative as it is thrilling.
Captcha is available to watch exclusively on WeAreColony.com from Sunday 10th May.