A seemingly ordinary man checks into a hotel, unconcerned about the new amenities, or anything described by the clerk. The hotel is upscale and obviously expensive. The clerk remembers him well, so we know he’s been there before; but, soon enough, we don’t get the feeling he’s been there for typical business…or pleasure. Despite the man’s detached attitude, we sense that he is most surely attached to something—something no one else should know about. Side glances and a trench coat begin to be more than coincidence. Behind the man’s restless, watchful demeanor, we know he’s still considering the details of something well planned—or so, we think. Therein lies the already suspenseful beginning of Fate Accompli—the new film written and directed by Eric Neal.
From the very beginning, there is a distinct and comfortable film-noir feel that grows throughout the movie. All elements for the genre are well designed. There is the earlier-mentioned trench coat; there are concealed guns, cigarettes (also smoked with a somehow-still-classy appeal by a woman), cameras lingering over female curves, and even close-up shots of liquor poured in glasses. The lines, “Nothing sexier than an attractive woman smoking a cigarette,” and “You know, you look a little like Lauren Bacall,” even direct us back to the actual era, if all else is not enough. Yes, everything but the kitchen sink of film noir is added here, with original rather than clichéd effect. “How?” you ask. I’d say it’s because, as in this case, that film noir sets us up to think we know where we’re going; It reminds of all the places we’ve been before, but rarely takes us there. And, Fate Accompli is surely no exception to this.
Added to the mix of film-noir features is a high-class call girl played by the high-class actress, Erin Breen! Yes, you read that correctly; I did put an exclamation mark at the end of the name Erin Breen. “Why?” you ask. In the spirit of film-noir suspense, I’ll tell you later.
The man (and the main character of the movie) is Gabriel, played by Walt Sloan. Gabriel is that stereotype of a dark-film bad guy who seems somehow far worse than even we know. He only has time for anything less than business and yes, call girls, because he fits it into his schedule, for, it seems, further business more so than pleasure. Gabriel (yes, the name makes us think of the angel) is also, and ironically, another classic film-noir character—a hitman (or, as he says himself, “I negotiate contracts.”) Whether or not there is real intention to associate Gabriel as a hitman with the arch angel himself is uncertain. The movie presents no direct (or even indirect) way to do that. However, it is at least an interesting possibility for it to be so, since a mere metaphorical coincidence is unlikely. This freedom of interpretation through suggestion alone is one of many things I liked about Fate Accompli, and this is offered more than once in the movie.
Is there more to say about Walt Sloan as Gabriel? Yes, there definitely is! Although I have not seen Sloan before, I was most impressed with his performance as the all-to-confident, sociopathic hitman. I admit that I at first thought he was a bit too cool as such a hardened killer. However, I quickly realized that his calmness in the role is exactly what makes him all the more effective in the movie. At first, I asked, “Why isn’t he a bit more wild and crazy about things as the going gets tough here and there?” However again, I quickly realized that, for his character, everything was all in a day’s work, so to speak, and likely nothing he hadn’t dealt with in another such hit job nearly gone wrong. Yes, Walt Sloan plays the role of Gabriel straight and true to reality with just the right complacency to make his character believable, effective, and yes, even creepy. While many people could have played this role, Sloan did it as well as it needed to be done. Fate Accompli!
Entering into the story with a knock at Gabriel’s hotel door is Faye, the call girl played so wonderfully by Erin Breen. Yes, now is when I finally tell why I put the exclamation point at the end of her name. Erin is an actress I have seen in other films; she always delivers a spot-on, knock-out performance that wows me every time. In order to overcome my previous impressions of Erin’s work (and in order to give Fate Accompli an overall fair, unbiased review) I watched the movie and Erin’s performance with careful objectivity. However, I am happy to report, with the utmost honesty, that Erin’s performance was again as outstanding and powerful as anything I’ve seen before. In the end, after being as picky as possible (and actually trying to find fault) I came away instead blown away by her performance…again. Yes, it’s just a fact, and I would be less than objective to describe it otherwise.
What is it that’s so awesome about Erin? Well, it’s exactly what it always is…again. There is a certain natural quality and feel about Erin’s acting that makes her totally believable in whatever role she plays. Here, as the classy call girl, I totally believe her. No, it’s not just because Erin is beautiful enough for the part; it’s not just because she defines the meaning of sultry (another film-noir essential). It’s because her acting tells me that what she does is true—even though it’s all make believe. Could anyone else have played the part well enough? Of course. Could anyone else have played the part better than Erin? No. Erin portrays Faye with the hardened realism of a classy “expensive” call girl who may really be, as she describes herself, “a cheap, sleazy whore.” Erin gives Faye layers of complexity that belie Faye’s true nature, making Faye an inaccurate representation of herself. Her façade of a classy call girl reveals insecurities and fear from something else entirely—either as a mere hooker from the street, or perhaps something much worse. Erin brings forth realistic emotions on cue, and always looks believable doing it. When I saw Erin crying, I was convinced that she was really crying, rather than merely acting. The examples go on and on, but I think you get my point. Erin again delivers a performance that stands out, making Fate Accompli more than it could have been without her. Kudos and congratulations to Erin Breen…again!
To top it all off, is there a sexy, smoldering femme fatale in Fate Accompli? Yes, there most certainly is! How could there not be, with every other element in place? However, the identity of this lovely lady is one I must keep concealed, in the spirit of further film-noir style and suspense. To do so, would get too close to spoiling a film that needs to be seen with the viewer “in the dark”, so to speak.
By now, you probably have more than a few good questions. What do Gabriel and Faye do in the hotel room…besides what we expect? Do they even do what we expect? Is Faye really an expensive call girl? Is she instead a common whore…or maybe something worse? Is she perhaps Gabriel’s reckoning—a punishment for his crimes as a hit man? Does Faye exist only in Gabriel’s mind? Or, is she possibly all of the above and everywhere, in some culmination of all that seeks justice. As you can imagine, I’m not about to tell you. You have to discover all of that for yourself, while experiencing it all yourself. I only ask the questions to show what I wondered about as I watched the movie, and for some time afterwards. The movie’s questions linger with us. With that wonder is more of what I like about Fate Accompli.
The score is always important, but never so much more than in a movie like Fate Accompli. Here, the score develops and maintains the foreboding, all-important atmosphere of doom that that grows throughout the movie. Lingering notes keep us focused on the mystery, flowing with the speed of the film. Adding full-on suspense, it carries the film as well as anything else…and sometimes more. Encore applause to Andrew Edwards for producing a score that captures the mood of the movie and translates it effectively to the viewer.
By now, as we come to the end of the review, you are, no doubt, wondering where the horror, the supernatural, or perhaps the unlikely science fiction weaves its way into such a tale recounted on Space Jockey Reviews. Trust me! Some of the above is there, enough to make this film fit nicely into the Space Jockey review queue. I’m not telling which one or how many, as that would spoil yet another effect of the film worth the wait. You’ll have to watch it to see. I’ll only say that, in Fate Accompli, justice has a way of finding its victims, no matter where they are, names notwithstanding, regardless of the distance that time puts between them. Rest assured that no court of law dispenses justice here. Tangible and intangible manifestations of guilt and justice are everywhere…and nowhere.
This brings me to one of the many things I really liked about the movie. Fate Accompli is a movie that starts off completely realistic (as if it could happen to you, albeit in a film-noir sort of world). Then, it turns, quite unexpectedly, into something totally different and outside of the genre in which it begins—something outside of the world we know. What’s better is that it does this without making the viewer feel cheated, manipulated, or played with. Do we find out someone’s been dreaming the whole time? Do we learn that it’s all in an alternate reality of some sort? Or, do we find that it’s all from someone’s twisted and deranged perspective? While I won’t answer any of those questions, I’ll say again that it doesn’t make us feel cheated regardless. It does become a different kind of movie from what we expect it to be, just when we think we know its kind. It also gives us more than one way to interpret an ending we don’t expect. Some of my favorite movies do these things, and Fate Accompli does all of these things very well.
On the subject of dual (or perhaps multiple) interpretations of an ending, I must say that the “devil” so to speak, “is in the details” here more truly than ever. Be sure to pay close attention to the details as the movie ends, and you’ll see exactly what I mean—a very nice touch it is, for those who care to find it! Unless it’s a continuity error (which I do not believe it is), the proof for other interpretations is clearly there.
If I had to find anything needing improvement in Fate Accompli, I might (and I do stress might) suggest another twist of some sort along the way. The plot, while taking most by surprise (as it did me), may not be appreciated enough for that alone. Some may also want to know more about the characters. However, the trick with a short movie (in this case 25 minutes) is that it has little time to do what might make it better for only some people. Extra character details may, in fact, not make the movie better at all. Knowing more about Faye and her background, for example, would have done nothing to improve the story. She tells enough, I think, in her admissions to Gabriel. Knowing more about Gabriel and how he got into being a hit man may have added nothing important as well. All of these potential additions that some may want could even slow down the plot, creating other reasons for criticism. The only reason I mention any of this is to be address what some may consider an issue. Fate Accompli did what it intended to do, with full effect, adding the equally difficult element of surprise in an otherwise familiar story—an element many movies fail to deliver, even when they try.
There is one curious detail I must mention, although it is not a problem. If anything, it’s just a distraction. In the hotel room, before Faye arrives, Gabriel is reading a book that the camera seems to showcase, if not simply focus on long enough to be noticed. The book seems more than just a prop, because we are allowed to see not only the title, but the author’s name as well. The book is The Tin Drum, by Guther Grass. I have seen the movie based on the book, and I know the story well. Trying my best to make a connection to Fate Accompli, I could not. The book title with its visibility almost distracted me from the story, causing me to make a connection attempt that was futile. Maybe there is a metaphor I have not yet found; but, as of now, I don’t see it. In the end, it winds up being more of a lingering mystery that, ironically, makes the movie all the more memorable. Funny it is how these things turn out; maybe it’s all even part of the plan.
On a certainly positive note, I found it most effective (for character development) that Gabriel did not even remember the life of a particular person who is integral to the movie—a woman whose life he destroyed. Killing and then discarding a person from memory like an insect pest, without a second thought, Gabriel becomes utterly despicable. He could die a thousand deaths and most viewers wouldn’t care in the end. Fate Accompli cannot be said to leave the viewer unfulfilled or left hanging in the end, as so many short films do—something that has become all too acceptable for the genre. Instead, the movie plays out and ends up like a longer feature, with all the accompanying satisfaction we want.
In the end, I really liked Fate Accompli. I did not find myself checking the time, during (of all things) a short film, hoping it would end even sooner. I did not find myself confused, due to its brevity, as I often do with short films. I did not see characters acting in ways that real people don’t act, saying things in ways that people don’t really talk. The acting of Walt Sloan and Erin Breen was top notch, realistic, natural, and all other professional things needed to help one identify with their characters. The story was tight, efficient, and intriguing, with no down time, boring moments, or scenes that seemed unnecessary. Lighting, sound, continuity, editing, and all other technical issues were done quietly, as they should be done, without making the viewer think about them. I’ve seen too many full-scale Hollywood productions have too much trouble with those issues alone…ironically. With Fait Accompli, Eric Neal and all involved have produced a film that stands out in the Space Jockey short-film showcase, and stands alone as a film achievement at any level.
So, the next time you do something really bad, think about how it all might come back to you in the end…or so they say. Even if your name is Gabriel and you’re tough as nails, with an extended mob family taking care of their own with speed, heed the warning and consider what even the strongest of us may not control. Oh, and whatever you do…watch Fate Accompli! If you don’t, as the title suggests, you’re “fate” may already be sealed, if not at least deprived of an excellent movie. In the end, not being afraid of death because everyone dies will not keep fear away.
“This night will go a lot smoother, if you resist the urge to bullshit me.” ~ Gabriel
Check out more intriguing shots from Fate Accompli!
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Also see FATE ACCOMPLI on IMDb!
Sigsally Entertainment Presents a Film by Eric Neal, Starring Walt Sloan and Erin Breen, Cinematography by John Klein, Original Score by Andrew Edwards, Edited by Tom Pastorelle, Photography by David William Fuller, Sound Designer Joe Griffin, Angela Gaffney, Associate Producer John Klein, Produced by Eric Neal, Written and Directed by Eric Neal, with “Go Down You Murderer” Performed by Daniela Sloan
Below is a stellar scene from Fate Accompli, showcasing the awesome talents of Walt Sloan and Erin Breen!
For a description of Rocket Rating 8.5, click on the Rocket Meter above!