Sombra City, a short film by the Greek American filmmaker Elias Plagianos, is a great demonstration of the power of bringing two awesome genres together. By setting up its thematic and narrative rhythm within the tradition of neo-noir and placing the story to the scenery of a minimalistic sci-fi, the critically acclaimed author of the thriller The Crimson Mask mixes in Sombra City together a gripping and atmospheric experience that is charming and immersively cinematic.
Sombra City tells a story of two old lovers meeting again under complex circumstances. Namely, we are introduced to Ellis (Josh Burrow), who is a charming corporate assassin, and to seductive Ariadne (Mariela Garriga). They meet in an aesthetically timeless city to which Ellis has returned to carry out his work. The tense and utterly elegant story explores the vignettes of their past, while presenting their intensely sexy noirish reunion. Whose intentions will prevail? Will their love bloom again? How and who will pull the Chekov’s gun towards whom?
Although the premise is bold and simple, the multilayered and multitemporal storytelling is constructed eloquently and tensely. The atmospheric film does not contain anything unnecessary. Every detail of the romantic, charming and gripping story works harmoniously together, creating a unique atmosphere, which is both sexy and immersive. These genre specific properties are furthered by beautifully and thickly written dialogue, which creates an awesomely seductive dynamic between the two lead performers. And the performances by Josh Burrow and Mariela Garriga are truly polished as they complement the captivatingly coherent tone of the film. The actors allure you to this world full of unfulfilled desires, suspicious motifs, conflicting pasts, and dark endless nights.
Looking forward to the elements that construct the visually familiar but atmospherically unique film world, the refined vision of the director-writer is confirmed further. The visual elements of the film serve a common goal as well. The broken but suggestive tones (of the sets, color grading, and timeless costume design) build up the atmosphere, while the well-composed and smooth cinematography by Javier Labrador Deulofeu creates beautiful visual continuity and the core material for the expressive, bold, and unique editing. Furthermore, the mysterious and tone setting score adds layers to the perfectly tuned atmosphere of the film.
When you reach the end of Sombra City, you can feel nothing else but crave for more. No, not because of the well-structured and for the short film form created story. No, the craving arises from something entirely else. It builds up on the cinematic competence of the authors that introduce a gripping film world full of possibilities, charming characters, and fascinating milieus full of rich details that fill you with need to know more. Sombra City does the most important things that the genres that it is inspired by ideally do – create tension in story, introduce morally complex characters, blur the lines between right and wrong, create (sexual) tension between characters, and introduce a complex world with its own rules and possibilities. And because of that, Sombra City is both beautifully traditional and grippingly modern piece of filmmaking.