As the opening credits consume the screen, goosebumps of excitement emerge for fans of the sci-fi genre. We are immediately thrown into a dystopian world beautifully created by director, and first-time writer, Ravi Ajit Chopra. From bio-tech chips in necks, soldiers in strict formation and sophisticated spaceships, the intricate details and care given to this aesthetic are apparent from the short film’s first frame.
We land on Planet Vega and launch into a charming father/son relationship, which seems somewhat too idyllic in this setting. On some level, deep in the pit of your stomach, you know something is going to ruin this heartwarming moment. As they battle the elements, young Abner is taken by ‘Storm trooper’ like rangers and whisked away to a brutal world of regimented training (Ender’s Game springs to mind). Being stripped of all humanity, essentially becoming a shell, Jeremy Irvine’s solider-like composure of a cog in a much bigger machine, sends chills and paves the way for a grand awakening.
Brainwashed and trained as a child, chipped and thrown into a world no one would ever want to be, Abner seems to be pretty good at his job and sent on a mission much to his colleague’s aversion. When he runs into some trouble, his chip begins to glitch and memories emerge of much happier times and equally times of utter darkness come to haunt him. A vivid realisation occurs – that he has been brainwashed, controlled by the system all of his life, and, until this moment, he never knew.
The film has built upon its notions of being true to yourself, having dreams and pursuing them, so when that underlining message is shattered the sheer heartbreak is devastating. Fresh-faced Milo Panni as young Abner evokes a small Sean Astin; bringing a crucial combination of cuteness and emotion to his performance. Andrew Scott’s name will draw attention to the project and, though his screen time is limited, he brings his considerable ability to bear on the film as father Elias. The unbreakable bond between father and son transcends space and time, allowing the journey Abner embarks on through thought and senses to become much more complex, adding a stimulating layer to this sci-fi drama.
Like many projects this year Cognition has been delayed due to the global pandemic, but it’s certainly worth waiting for. Awesome CGI and effects are married with Samuel Karl Bohn’s atmospheric score leads the way for an epic tale. Above all else, it’s apparent this project has come from an area of true passion seeping through in every frame. Emotional and guttural performances don this narrative alongside a twist that will haunt your thoughts for days.
Cognition is undoubtedly captivating and a truly welcome distraction while we wait eagerly for season two of The Mandalorian. This short film absolutely leaves you wanting more and one can’t help but envision what could be achieved in terms of a feature – a thrilling concept and perhaps there will be one on its way.