VOD film review: Infinitum: Subject Unknown
Leslie Byron Pitt | On 10, Apr 2021
Director: Matthew Butler-Hart
Cast: Tori Butler-Hart, Ian McKellen, Conleth Hill
Watch Infinitum: Subject Unknown online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
During the coronavirus pandemic, when some were stuck in their house, tweeting about whatever artisan bread recipe they were considering once the supermarkets replenished their flour volumes, Matt Butler-Hart and his wife Tori decided on something else. A chance to exert themselves. A chance to create. Their project Infinitum: Subject Unknown was shot entirely on an iPhone and filmed by a two-man crew. These guys went full Soderbergh. They went beyond Steve.
Butler-Hart was looking to “push the iPhone to its limits” and he succeeds. Infinitum highlights the power of consumer tech and seizes an interesting opportunity to do something with England while it was mostly bare and barren.
Infinitum holds similarities with Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow. Each film is set in England and has a video-game-like structure to proceedings. Their main character is trusted into a continuous time loop, in which they must continuously repeat the same day repeatedly, altering their previous minor lapses to inch further through the day. While the Edge of Tomorrow had a blockbuster budget and the likes of Tom Cruise headlining its casting, Infinitum, despite its hefty coup in picking up Sir Ian McKellen as Dr Charles Marland-White, was filmed with a two-man crew with most of its screen-time centred on Tori Butler-Hart and her character, Jane.
Films involving time loops seem to have grown in popularity in recent years. Groundhog Day was often the main film cited when looking at such narratives. However, a quick Google brings forth a slew of titles having fun with quantum physics, from horror films such as Happy Death Day to rom-coms such as Palm Springs. What marks Infinitum: Subject Unknown over many of its contemporaries is just how well Matt Butler-Hart puts his film together despite its limitations. Filming the empty streets of London and Oxford gives an eerie empty feel to proceedings.
McKellen’s role may be exaggerated and feels little more than a cameo. However, using remote shooting for his brief role fits the story that is being told. The use of an iPhone as the main camera allows some inventive and tight compositions. The affordability of the tech has allowed the filmmaker’s imagination to flourish. While there isn’t much to that video-game-like plot, the circumstances of the film bring more ambition than many other lo-fi science fiction pieces.
With its committed performance from Tori Butler-Hart, Infinitum is an interesting sci-fi exercise. However, the film’s lack of supporting cast and ambiguous explanations later ensure that the film never breaks free to become anything more than just that. It is a film that would sit well with the likes of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Resolution in highlighting what can be done with every little, but it will be interesting to see if its filmmakers can build further on the foundations they’ve created.