Short Film Review: Final Offer.
This science fiction short charms in places but begs for more time to develop its case.
Since we reviewed the streaming service Dust last year, quite a few films have been added. The sci-fi curator now provides several original features and series, making it even more of an attraction to aficionados. This week I decided to pop by and review the newest original, Final Offer. Directed by Mark Slutsky (who has a trio of films you can find on Dust and Vimeo) this short has a kernel of sci-fi goodness and a charming cast, but its short length leaves you hoping for more.
Final Offer (2018)
Henry, a shaggy and hapless lawyer, wakes up from a bender in an office with no doors. Across from him sits Olivia, a woman Henry vaguely remembers from the night before. Olivia presents Henry with a doozy of a proposition: he’s been chosen as humanity’s representative to negotiate a trade agreement with an alien species who are keen to acquire Earth’s resources. He’s got five minutes to hammer out the deal.
A Lawyer and an Alien Walk into a Bar…
Our first introduction to Henry and Olivia worried me; the two seem to be rushing to get their character’s peculiarities out into the open. Once they settle in to the negotiations, however, they really start to shine. TV veterans Anna Hopkins (The Expanse) and Aaron Abrams (Hannibal) have a solid rapport and seem to be genuinely enjoying the proceedings. It may help that they co-starred together in another of Director Mark Slutsky’s shorts, Never Happened. By the end of the film I was much more interested in how their characters were developing than the Twilight Zone-esque premise of the story.
Build Your Case.
The story of Final Offer feels very much like Rod Sterling could have dreamed it up. The incomplete information that builds to a twist reveal and the slightly off-kilter atmosphere where a very mundane task is fraught with high stakes is classic Twilight Zone fodder. While I felt that Slutsky manages to bring the story to completion in the brief 12 minutes of the film, I really would have rather seen it developed as an episode length feature. By being so brief the premise becomes more of a quirk than a sustained dramatic element.
Final Offer is a vintage sci-fi story of the type Phillip K Dick and Sterling made famous. It lasts just long enough to get to an “ah-ha!” moment before pulling back and leaving you wondering. While I appreciate the authenticity of the homage, I was left wanting more. The production values are very polished, and Slutsky builds his world deftly. Coupled with two intriguing characters given fine performances, it adds up to an experience that could easily have filled a longer vehicle. It certainly intrigues me to see what else this trio has collaborated on, and to hope that they might extend their negotiations to include another visit from luckless Henry and enterprising Olivia.