The Drift ★★★★

It's hard to sit down and write an ordinary review for a film like The Drift, which is far from ordinary itself. A British indi sci-fi thriller that's about as independent as it gets. Made with roughly only five thousand pounds (an astronomically low budget for a feature length film) and a lot of do-it-yourself labour, it's a wonder it ever saw the light of day.

It comes from the mind of Darren Scales, who I've known of for ten years as the man behind some brilliant Star Wars parody fan films (The Empire Strikes Backyard, The Emperor's New Clones). This however, is his first serious feature film, which is almost too ambitious for its own good.

It focuses on a salvage ship, in a not too distant future, investigating a spaceship graveyard known as the Drift. From the get go we're introduced to terms such as a "dark wave" or a "starlight crystal" both of which are integral to the plot. They give the film and its universe, its own distinctive identity, along with an effectively unseen "Ministry" who are in charge of the mission.

The visual style is very much inspired by other classic science fiction films, but is original in its own right too. It was one thing for Backyard Productions and Darren Scales to recreate classic Star Wars designs, but another thing entirely to conceive new and interesting ships. The direction is very clever too, making the most of the admirably constructed sets that make up the corridors and interiors of the vessels where the story takes place.

The characters feel very authentic and the script is fairly natural too which helps things along really well. Being micro budgeted and made in a way that lives up to the "backyard" in Backyard Productions, against the odds, The Drift has become a polished final product. It's a true testament to the passion for filmmaking and storytelling from Darren Scales and his team, that it turned out so slick in the end.

The CGI effects make up a huge part of the film, and perhaps they could've been relied on a little less. As consistent and solid as they are, at times they really don't measure up to the standard of what a modern audience has gotten used to. For me, the only true down fall of the film is that anyone who watches it without being told the back story of how it was made, why it was made or how much it cost, might balk at the visual effects.

That being said, the sheer volume of the VFX and the fact that they were all done by artists who worked on the film without pay, is quite incredible. The soundtrack by James Griffiths is fantastic, and really ties the whole film together, a truly fitting score for a sci-fi movie that very nearly steals the whole show. It's also worth noting that the sound design in general is excellent. Every effort has been made over a three year period to make this film look, sound and feel like a professional product. It's hard not to admit that it lives up to that.

A lot of the characters have unique personalities, some stand out more than others, both from the way they were written and the way they were performed. Jonny Black gives the film a solid core and the crew a good leader as Captain Goodwin. Vin Hawke is a little hammy but nonetheless entertaining as Ace, with an equally colourful performance from Victoria Hopkins as the fiery (and aptly named) Scarlett. For me though, Peter-Revel Walsh really stood out from the pack, especially in the third act, as Travis. He really sold the gravity of the situation (no pun intended, honestly!) with some wonderfully subtle acting that made me truly believe in The Drift.

Overall, without spoiling hardly anything, I think The Drift is definitely worth anyone's time. As I say, it's just a shame that some people don't want to hear a whole lot of back story behind the production of a film, let alone before even seeing it, so I doubt it'll crack any true mainstream attention. It wasn't made for that though, it was made by a truly passionate crew with a love for making films, and it shines through in this fun yet eerie, inspirational and unlikely homemade blockbuster.

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