Four academics, experts in their fields, have been summoned to a dingy, cedar-paneled basement office in a remote Chilean astronomic observatory.
Each was exceedingly flattered by the invitation, by a famous scientist legendary for his secrecy.
But when the door is locked behind them, they’re puzzled. And when the video screen on the wall flickers to life, their summoner (Daniel Epstein) tells them that he’s actually dead. He then recites a long list of numbers to them, which some are quick enough to write down.
They must figure out what those numbers mean to possibly stave off what their late science hero regards as they inevitable.
“You will all die at 10 o’clock tonight!”
Welcome to the “Tangent Room,” where only their brains can save Sandra (Lisa Bearpark), David (Håkan Julander), Kate (Vee Vimolmal) and Carol (Jennifer Lila).
Something only theorized about up until now is about to reveal itself. It could be catastrophic for all of them, or only the ones who can’t escape this room, or the entire planet. They just don’t know. But the numbers will tell them.
As Sandra, the token optimist in the quartet reminds them, “The right numbers can solve anything.”
“Tangent Room” is an “Escape Room” variation — basically “Six Actors in search of an author” or “Twilight Zone’s” sci-fi variation, “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” Only with little in the line of dangerous thrills, and a Big Science Concept at its core — two, actually.
As the pragmatic David and nonplussed Carol argue for finding a way to short out the electro-shock lock that seals the door, the prickly on-the-spectrum Kate reminds the others that “Not all of us will leave this room,” and if she has to whack somebody, she will.
What the four try to reason out is part of “conformative cyclic cosmology,” an opening title told us.
First concept — that the universe, post-“Big Bang,” has reached “the end of expansion.” The explosion that blew everything into being and has been expanding and petering out ever since has petered out.
Second concept — It’s that whole “parallel universe(s) thing that classic “Star Trek” toyed with and “Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse” explored.
Writer-director Björn Engström’s movie leans more towards cerebral drama than edge-of-your-seat thriller. He’s more interested in the ideas these four are wrestling with than the actual wrestling. The four quarrel, apply reason built out of their areas of expertise and bicker some more.
Where things get interesting in terms of tension and actors portraying people (Lila and Vimolmal give the stand out performances) confronted with something so extraordinary as to be almost supernatural, is when characters literally flicker — in the room — jumping about in space AND time.
You’d freak out, too.
It’s a simple, inexpensive effect — digital video jumpcuts that move this character or another around the room in mid-conversation. And the ways the four figure out how to cope with that, to figure which “version” of their multi-verse selves they’re dealing with and why they have actually been summoned here and locked in this room are the best reasons to see “Tangent Room.”
It’s a fairly dry film, otherwise. But if it’s a great compliment to say any movie “makes you think,” hats off to Björn Engström for making a short, smart sci-fi picture that makes you wish you’d stayed in college a few years longer.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Lisa Bearpark, Daniel Epstein, Håkan Julander, Vee Vimolmal, Jennifer Lila.
Credits: Written and directed by Björn Engström. An Epic release.
Running time: 1:05