It was a decade and some change ago when I was invited to a screening of a short sci-fi flick, held at a watering hole, by a friend of a good friend. The event featured some pre-presentation teasers and a post-presentation concert from the great Egg Yolk Jubilee. Celebratory and quite the reverie, Aperture could've been considered an afterthought for the tipsy-ish and high on life crowd. For me, however, thoughts dwelled solely on Jason Vowell's too awfully present tale of technology-based corruption, the security of perspective, and the likelihood that forces greater than us aren't just acting against our interests, but are also victims of a headless monolithic system. I quipped to one of my friends, when a scene showcased the use of cockroaches mounted with cameras to spy on others:

"So, this is Dick Cheney's America, right?"

Metro New Orleans. Post-Hurricane Katrina. Deep in the 2nd term of W. Bush. Movies don't have to break the Universe or stir paradigm shifts to make an impression on me. They don't even really have to be about anything ever. A story can just be a story, content and confident with itself. When it's able to hit a nerve, intended or otherwise, is when the surprise hits you in the feels. At that moment, however brief or extended, a transcendence occurs. And it'll be recalled by you for a long time. 

I am one for hyperbole and decorative words often, but I do honestly feel this way about film, and I believe that more movies achieve this than you'd think. Soundwave is indeed one of those.

Director Dylan K. Narang's feature could draw some comparisons with a film like Pi, but it would be tenuous beneath the surfaces. Where Aronofsky's piercing classic of high anxiety and madness is on par with horrors like Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Karang's Soundwave is more akin to a smaller-scale Minority Report by way of an Amblin Entertainment touch. There's wonder, there's innocence, there's a history-shattery invention, and there's a threat from both the antagonists and the protagonist. Imagination most matured, this is. Resourceful, punch-packing, and straight-up fun. 

It tells the story of Ben (Hunter Doohan), a young man who lives above and works in an old-school repair shop in a maybe present-day version of a maybe New York City. His proper introduction is that of youthful exhaustion, reserved sadness, and a heavy measure of longing for something that would be out of reach for most. His boss and pseudo-guardian (Mike Beaver) takes in old radios and other crafted examples of consumer-grade technological achievement that hold more sentimental value than monetary. To Ben, the work is as easy as turning a screwdriver, and just as fulfilling. His primary focus, the very thing that consumes his energy, is a listening device that picks up sound from long ranges - down the street, another building, or several hours ago. 

Ben has cracked the sound-barrier of time itself, able to find and hone in on audible moments of the past that reverberate through the stars, beyond generations, and linger on in homes well past a tenants' stay. If these walls could talk, literally, what would we give to hear them? What would we give not to?

Soundwave develops a cityscape around this invention that moves slowly from the cracked pavement of the sidewalks and rusting stairways of poorly maintained apartment buildings to few instances in quiet and far away spaces, like a home retreat in the outskirts and a highrise that looms above all. It's designed to give a lived-in and worn-out feel to Ben's world, one where past experiences aren't simply invisible to only be revisited through his creation, but are very apparent in the scratches and seams of the surroundings. Memories good and bad leave marks everywhere, and can burrow deep into the tangible textures we touch every day. Soundwave is a great example of using ones creative eye for not just emotional resonance in story and performance, but the look and feel of the environments captured, which can inform just as much as body language. Here, it's subtle. Here, it's all too easy. 

Twists and turns abound for Ben, leading through various threads of mystery, murder, greed, moral evil, and a chase not simply for his device, not just for a desperate connection to the past, but towards a revelation of what matters most now and forever. I realize that I've built up this movie as an epic of high stakes humanity and turmoil, and for that I may have gone a bridge too far. Don't be led incorrectly by my enthusiasm, as Soundwave is a very accessible and engaging thriller for all to have and hold. It beats with implications of the ever-enveloping unknown much like Scanners does, and traverses an adventure that's all at once fun and dangerous with the humility of The Final Cut. There's not one detail that exists without some thoughtfulness, above and beyond.

Everything and everyone shines, from compositions and conceptions to nuances and rough-edges. When one of the villains of the piece - played with devious severity by Paul Tassone - tries to tempt Ben with an offer at the neutral meeting point of an empty club, his entire face is covered with a red light. While for sure a deliberate visual representation of what he represents, I prefer to believe that the character purposefully chose to sit in the way of that color for a pure intimidation effect. A later scene shows a passing glance at his own insecurity and limpness, suggesting that he's living inside a shell of imposing strength not just for accomplishing goals, but for an audience of himself. That red light doesn't simply make him bad, you see. Multitudes, dear readers.

(Watch the trailer for Soundwave here)

It's not just sound that has staying power in the fabric of our plane, but the force behind that sound too. The inflection, the volume, and the personalities make up the events and the shades of the people that Ben can tap into. Soundwave's thematic dealings and implications, while fascinating, wouldn't mean anything without highlighting the challenges within. We're no longer in the USA of Cheney, even though the consequences still bounce off the walls around us. It's a new order, kind of like the old one, but in a different pitch. 

Soundwave plays like an attentive stream of lightly subdued but wonderfully exaggerated thrills and excitement. And it is just that. Does it need to be more than that? 

Let it be. 

RATING: 4 / 5