Portal, also being called Doors in other countries, is a science fiction film that’s a bit different from your average movie. When mysterious portals start to appear across the Earth, causing people to disappear, people try to investigate this strange new phenomenon, and we get four seemingly unconnected stories showing us small parts of this larger mystery.
The film is split into four sections, each with its own set of characters, own director, and their own story to tell; though they all go towards the bigger story of these strange ‘doors’ that appear one day. As such, it’s a film that can sometimes feel a little disjointed, and it can be hard to connect to some of the characters, but it’s a film that I still enjoyed.
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The first segment of the film, ‘Lockdown’, follows a group of four teens who are in school detention when things start to go wrong. Their phones begin to go crazy with incoming alerts and calls, and when their teacher leaves the room in a panic after getting a call on his own phone the kids are left to fend for themselves. A lockdown is soon announced, and the kids try to figure out what’s going on. They come out with multiple scenarios about what’s happening until they find this strange mass filling one of the halls, a mass that reacts to them, and seems to be communicating with one of them.
The second segment, ‘Knockers’, is set a few weeks after the first appearance of the doors, and we learn that governments around the world are trying to send groups into these portals to try and find some answers. These explorers, or Knockers as they’re called, only have a few minutes to get in, find some answers, and get out before pyschosis affects them. We get to follow three knockers as they enter a door, and see the bizarre, mind altering things they find within.
The third part, ‘Lamaj’, is centred on a scientist living deep in the woods months into the mystery. Having been laughed out of academia the man has cobbled together his own equipment and has been trying to find a way of communicating with the door that he has hidden near his home. When it responds to him he calls in one of his former colleagues to help try and get some answers as to what’s going on.
The final segment of the film, kind of an epilogue, is an internet call between a scientist and a podcaster, the podcaster being someone we’ve gotten small parts of throughout the rest of the movie. When questioning the scientist as to what he thinks the doors are things start to get seriously bizarre.
Even though it has different directors for three parts, Jeff Desom, Saman Kesh, and Dugan O’Neal, the film feels very similar, and it looks and feels like one coherent piece. It has a very good visual quality to it, with some genuinely gorgeous shots (particualarly in the ‘Knockers’ segement). The only part that feels really different is the final segment with the podcaster, and I’d say the film would have been fine without this section, even though it does add some more possible answers into the mix. It gives you small hints across its entire run time; little answers that when added together seem to spell out what’s really going on: you just have to be paying attention to see them. It’s a film that doesn’t want to spell everything out, and wants you to come to your own conclusions.
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After watching the movie I had to go online to see if it was an original screenplay or if it was based on a book, as it reminded me of some of the more unusual and ‘trippy’ science fiction novels I’ve read. The structure of the story, the use of unspoken captions to deliver information, and the sheer oddness of the project felt more like a novel come to life than a film, and I really enjoyed that quality of it. But, it’s not an adaptation of anything, and is its own original thing, which if anything impressed me even more.
I can see why this will be a divisive film, because it is definitely not for everyone. It’s not a film you can put on and switch your mind off to because you need to be paying attention. It doesn’t tell a straight forward narrative, it does odd things, and it wants the audience to do some of the work. But in doing that it’s one of the more ambitious films I’ve seen in a while, one that I think could struggle to find an audience, but those who do like it will definitely be thinking about it long after it’s over.
Portal is out now on DVD and Digital from Signature Entertainment.