New Sci-Fi Releases: Tangent Room (2017) - Reviewed

Like most genres, Sci-Fi samples from and mixes well with with others. Pair sci-fi with action and you can get brilliant films like Mad Max: Fury Road or Blade Runner, (and also pretty much any film set in the Marvel or DC universes). Add horror to the sci-fi mix and you may just get a gem like A Quiet Place, Event Horizon, or, if you're lucky, a masterpiece like Alien. Then, there are those creators that double down on the science part of science fiction, those who create cerebral head-scratchers that, often times, leave the majority of the audience wondering exactly what just happened, with no ingrained set of skills available to figure it out. Sometimes these films work (see: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Pi, and Memento), sometimes they don't (the latter entries in The Matrix franchise) and sometimes, they may just be a little too smart for their own good. Bjorn Engstrom's 2017 mind bender, Tangent Room, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

Clocking in at a brisk 65 minutes, you'd almost think there's not enough time to inundate an audience with doctoral level math and science, but Engstrom spends a large portion of the film overwhelming his audience with scientific jargon, the explanation of something called Conformic Cycle Cosmology, to be precise. Beginning the film this way, with little to no backstory, and thin characterization of his players, is understandable once the plot is actually presented, however, it takes longer than necessary to get there, which is almost an achievement in itself considering the extremely slim run time. 

That said, once the plot arrives at its destination, the film does get much more fun. Things that were annoying earlier in the film are (nearly) understandable and forgivable once the audience finds their purpose. The special effects are minimal, but incredibly effective. And while this viewer still isn't exactly sure what the hell happened, the ending still somehow manages to be satisfying. There is never any huge A-HA moment, where the audience suddenly understands all the science and math spewed for the previous 40 minutes, but honestly, that really doesn't matter. It doesn't seem that Engstrom really intends his audience to truly understand the super 'sciencey' parts, and perhaps that's why they're so hard to follow and be interested in. 

Tangent Room is not a bad film, and considering that Engstrom did the lion's share of work on this film himself, it's quite the achievement. There is definitely an audience for this film, but it's not one for the masses. A little less science and a little more fiction might have made the earlier parts of this film a bit more palatable. 

-Josie Stec