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article imageReview: Someone has an unfair advantage in ’Sixty Minutes to Midnight’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 28, 2017 in Entertainment
’Sixty Minutes to Midnight’ pits a vocal audience’s bloodlust against a man’s will and ability to survive in this Toronto After Dark thriller.
As war and disasters increasingly normalize violence and death, people become immune to the bloody consequences… even more frighteningly, they can begin to crave the carnage. It’s been theorized that this phenomenon has led to an increase in brutality in movies and video games, which in turn has led to an increase in everyday aggression. This idea has been represented in fiction in a variety of ways and for much longer than the current potential culprits have existed. The latest to explore this lust for blood is an independent picture titled Sixty Minutes to Midnight, which turns surviving into a game that’s certainly fixed.
Jack (Robert Nolan) is a construction worker with few ties to the world. Consequently, the Vietnam veteran is opting to spend New Year’s Eve alone in his secluded cabin, watching television and finishing off a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. When his plans are jeopardized by a cable outage, Jack is surprised by the swift response of the provider on a holiday. However, he’s less impressed when he’s awoken by the voice of a smooth-talking game show host (Douglas Beaumont) that Jack can’t silence or avoid. What he sees next on the screen is implausible: it’s his own image as he’s introduced as this year’s contestant in a 60-minute game to the death. Soon, mercenaries are breaking into Jack’s home trying to kill him. Only they’ve underestimated their latest player, who isn’t going down without a fight.
A cross between The Running Man and Home Alone, this film combines the live audience’s lust for death and violence with a resourceful would-be victim that takes the fight to his intruders — Jack literally has the home advantage. In spite of their pre-game surveillance, the intruders cannot know the house as well as its nearly hermitic occupant. As an army veteran, it’s practically expected Jack would have weapons in the house, but they miscalculate his survival instinct and retention of his training. The game show host takes the defeat of their first attacker in stride; but as they near the end of the 60-minute time limit he becomes noticeably anxious, which he unfortunately expresses via an unconscionable bonus round.
Not quite unfolding in real-time, the ticking clock aspect of the narrative becomes secondary each time a fresh strike is waged. The game is obviously skewed in the invaders’ favour, as they have the numbers, an arsenal and surveillance technology; yet Jack continuously beats the odds… much to the unseen audience’s dismay, who respond to each of his victories with groans and boos. In spite of sounding like an annual event, the show clearly has a loyal, callous support base.
Outside of some intermittent scenes with his friend and co-worker, there are primarily only two individuals driving the film and the game: Jack and the host. The mercenaries are interchangeable and the other characters irrelevant. Jack is a loner but not curmudgeonly, which allows him to be resilient and likeable. Conversely, the game host is sarcastic, loud and vindictive. Their opposing personalities solidify the narrative’s conflict as much as the numerous gunfights.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Director: Neil Mackay
Starring: Robert Nolan, Arnold Sidney and Terry McDonald
More about Sixty Minutes to Midnight, Robert Nolan, Douglas Beaumont, Toronto After Dark, Thriller
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