Max, a struggling actor living in South Africa, has flown into Sydney, Australia for the audition of his life. As soon as he lands things start to go horribly wrong when his girlfriend Sallie disappears. Frustrated with the police’s lack of progress in finding her, Max embarks on a desperate search with the help of childhood friend Richard. The pair’s search pushes them to both external and internal extremities in their desperate plight to find Sallie.
Concealed is well and truly a film of two halves. The first half is a reasonably well put together thriller with some genuinely intriguing moments. The second half… well, I’ll get to that later.
The film’s opening is really quite effective. We see Max (Simon Lyndon) and his girlfriend Sallie (Nadia Townsend) exit a taxi and make their way through the dark, wooded area outside their house. The camera follows them, often taking a POV perspective, alluding to a stalker in the trees. They make it to the house safe, but there’s something amiss. Sallie seems mad at Max, there’s a strange stuffed elephant in Sallie’s bag, and she takes a phone call in private, closing the door between herself and Max. Come morning, she’s gone.
From there on, the film follows Max as he tries to find his missing girlfriend. The film evolves along the way, adding more and more pieces to the puzzle – an arms dealer, conflict diamonds, a murder – and what seemed to be a regular disappearance becomes so much bigger than either Max or the audience ever thought.
Though Concealed doesn’t really offer anything spectacular in terms of content, it is a well-paced and well-shot thriller. The unsaturated colour palate gives the film a bleak atmosphere and adds impact to the darker scenes that, due to what I assume are budgetary reasons, often don’t show much.
Concealed also gives the audience little room to breathe. The cuts come hard and fast, and many times one scene jumps to another before it properly resolves. This works more than it doesn’t, keeping the blood pumping and giving as little away as possible, but sometimes it can be jarring and occasionally left me questioning exactly what had happened. This confusion is often reflected in Simon Lyndon’s performance. Though mostly tight, there are moments where Max seems to ignore the gravity of his situation, almost as if his reaction had been left on the cutting room floor. Whether this is down to editing or a partial lack of comprehension of the script, I couldn’t say.
These criticisms are small fry, however, as the film really takes a turn for the worst during its second half.
While the first half takes a rather linear structure, doing little more than following Max as he searches for Sallie, the second half introduces two new subplots. I shan’t say what they are, as the occur too far into the film and are most definitely spoilers, but the important thing to note is that they really take the punch out of the film’s pacing.
Though one of the subplots does factor into the main plot in a significant way, a far more interesting, albeit straightforward, story could have been told without it. The other subplot is totally irrelevant.
The core problem with these subplots is that they add a family drama element into Concealed’s otherwise straightforward thriller format. Adding elements is not necessarily a bad thing, but when a film is only 80 minutes to begin with, there’s not a lot of breathing room for secondary character or subplot development.
These unnecessary additions to the film slow its pace without adding anything important. There simply aren’t enough minutes in the film to flesh out all the relationships that evolve throughout, and a tighter focus on the amateur-detective-thriller plotline would have given rise to a much more impactful second half.
Concealed shows a lot of promise in its opening minutes, but squanders that promise in an overstuffed final act. It’s not a total flop by any means, and there’s a good deal of fun to be had for about 45 minutes. But overall, it’s ends up falling into the realm of mediocrity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
James Turner is a writer and musician based in Sheffield. You can follow him on Twitter @JTAuthor