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Bunker 6
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by Jay Seaver

"A fine callback to Cold War paranoia."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: With a little fiddling, you could probably push "Bunker 6" into the future or find a way to fit it into real-world history, but there would be little gained from that; any positives would likely be countered by the audience waiting for a "Twilight Zone"-style twist and being disappointed with the finale they get. So writer/director Greg Jackson ends the world right off the bat, making it easier to enjoy their Cold War throwback of a post-apocalyptic thriller for what it is.

The world ends in nuclear fire on 30 October 1962, although young Grace, whose father is somewhat high up in the Canadian military, makes it into a "Diefenbunker" fallout shelter just in time, and mere chance saves her from not being sealed in an irradiated corridor with her parents. Years pass, and when the man who raised her dies and entrusts her with the keys that can open the blast doors, seventeen-year-old Grace (Andrea Lee Norwood) is maintaining a decaying bunker and being pulled in different directions: Eric (Jim Fowler) is ready to get out, while Alice (Molly Dunsworth) doesn't shrink from the harsh truth that this is almost certainly a death sentence. For now, friendly Joe (Glenn Matthews) and maternal Mary (Shelley Thompson) side with Alice, but everything is falling apart, building and human alike.

Jackson has a few tricks up his sleeve that he will reveal as the movie goes on, and while they may not necessarily surprise, there is nothing in the script that seems impossible or unfair. Like most of the best stories structured as mysteries or otherwise featuring important discoveries relatively late in the action, Bunker 6 should reward a second viewing; it's a tight story that nevertheless doesn't allow the puzzle-box aspects to overwhelm the emotional core.

Andrea Lee Norwood is the one tasked with supplying much of the movie's heart, and that it's a quivering one makes the whole thing even more impressive. Grace is quite reasonably scared all the time, ready to crack either from the fact that she's been cooped up in an underground bunker for most of her life or how Alice pushes her around, and Norwood does a great job of showing how that's always there, even though she has to be capable and active instead of just hiding in a corner. She's good enough that the audience never questions Grace's centrality to the story, even when there may be other ways to go.

She's surrounded by some good folks, too. Molly Dunsworth is especially memorable as Alice, giving the character a forceful, commanding intensity despite her not appearing much older than Grace. Shelley Thompson provides strong support as an actress just as much as her character does as a mother-figure, making a fine counterpoint to Alice. The men have a little less room to distinguish themselves, but both Glenn Matthews and Jim Fowler deliver what the movie needs in their scenes.

And while I don't particularly like describing a film's location as being like a character, there is no doubt that Bunker 6 benefits immensely from being able to shoot in an actual Cold War bunker in Nova Scotia meant to shelter the government in case of nuclear attack. Beyond simple authenticity, the feeling is just right, too big in some places but too cramped in others, with just the right amount of decay (in some ways, this sort of sealed-off environment has to be somewhat pristine even as it's breaking down). Jackson and cinematographer Christopher Ball shoot impressively even when the location forces them into odd angles, and get a big boost from some downright fantastic sound work.

The place also helps them capture the specifically Cold War-era dread that humanity could suddenly wipe everything out in an instant with the survivors left unable to do much more than contemplate the end. That the movie captures that feeling without irony would make up for how certain elements might be more obvious than they were meant to be if not for the way that it works just fine even if the audience is a bit ahead of where they are expected to be, which is not always the case.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26292&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/15/14 14:27:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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