Short films are definitely a mixed bag, usually consisting of partial ideas that needed more explanation, good ideas that worked well or bad ideas that really needed someone to tell the filmmakers that their little movie still needed a lot of work. Valor’s Dawn not only falls into the category of a well done short but some of the action scenes in the movie could easily find a home in a full length feature.
The story begins as a sort of deathbed confession, told by a tortured shell of a man, which leads to flashbacks of how this man came to have such a heavy weight upon his heart and soul. The man, Ambiorix, leads the men trying to repel the invading Roman army. This leads to the death of Ambiorix’s son and then his grip on reality and his own sanity begin to crumble, leaving him with nothing left but to fight for some kind of forgiveness or atonement.
In written form, it seems to be a very easy tale to follow and for most of the short film it is. However, Reed Clare, who is writer, co-director (with Mike Donis) and star, makes this short much more than cheesy battle filled film. There was obviously effort, thought and time taken to map out the story and even more important, the characters themselves. Clare makes Ambiorix a very interesting man, whose strong facial expressions and body language really sell the character. He is very impressive and really grabs your attention when he is on screen.
The battle sequences were excellent, very realistic and an amazing feat to pull off for a small film such as this. It just goes to show you how much you can actually do with the right amount of planning and carefully mapped out camera shots and angles. The cheesy, low budget look was very minimal and the scenes looked very real. It was also a great idea to move back and forth from the fight scenes, just so the viewer did not focus too long on the battles and lose sight of what the rest of the film was trying to say.
I did have some issues with a few camera shots that looked either fuzzy or distorted and then cut to a different scene altogether. I don’t know if this was partly and artistic attempt to show sections of the film in a different way but it really didn’t work for me. Also, there were a few times that sounds that should have been there, like swords clanking on armor, seemed to be missing.
Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was a very impressive looking short that tried to convey a message or story that wasn’t overdone to the point that the viewer felt like they were being bashed over the head with it. At the same time, there was a definite focus to the story that didn’t try and dumb things down and insult the viewing audience.
There is no doubt that Reed Clare did a superb job with Valor’s Dawn, giving the viewing audience an enjoyable ride from start to finish, and I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us with his next project.
Four stars out of five
- Wonderful performance by Reed Clare
- Battle scenes are excellent, very realistic
- Good pace and atmosphere
- Some strange fuzzy and shaky camera shots
- A few sound problems