A Middle Eastern man becomes radicalized when his family becomes victims of the West’s cruel and vicious foreign policy decisions. As a result, he goes to Canada to exact his revenge. Read on to see our review of Triden V Balasingham’s politically-charged thriller, Toaster.
Toaster opens with what I believe to be actual footage of an airstrike that sees a missile destroy a tenement building in an anonymous middle eastern city. It’s a shocking moment that garners your immediate attention. You only tend to see this type of footage on news bulletins, in documentaries, or in the odd big-budget movie. I can safely say that I have never seen anything like it in a low budget independent short film.
In the aftermath of the blast, we see a man sitting outside the building covered in blood and sobbing. Then there is a stunning shot from an aerial view as we fly upwards from this man to above the rooftops, blending seamlessly into a drone shot of what once would have been a thriving city block but now is just a crumbling empty shell, destroyed by constant wars. Cinematographer Rankan Ponniah deserves a lot of praise for his work here.
Due to this astonishing opening salvo, I immediately had high hopes for Toaster and its political arguments, unfortunately, it doesn’t manage to live up to its initial promise, and although its intentions are brave and commendable the rest of the film becomes a little flat in comparison.
The sobbing man played authentically by Kannan Imman, is our cipher into this story. His family was killed in the opening blast and now, with nothing left to live for, he is easy to radicalize and becomes a terrorist seeking revenge. During the next few minutes his voiceover tells us how angry he is and how much pain he is in, and it is this narration that leads us to Toaster’s major problem. The problem being we don’t need it, there is too much exposition here. We don’t need to be told how angry he is, how sad he is, how badly he wants to taste revenge, and how he is going to enact it. These emotions are already there; the pain is etched on the face of the lead actor playing him. It’s there every time he looks at someone, makes a bomb, or sets off an explosion. Imman’s truthfulness shines through. It would be a very affecting performance but it is hindered by the decision of adding the voiceover.
The art of film making is all in the visuals, it’s a show and don’t tell medium. Director Triden Balasingam has all the images as some of his shots are very powerful, but he prefers to tell us what is happening instead of just letting us experience it. At the end of the 10-minute piece, there is a short animation that spells out the terrorists thought process, and despite being very well executed it is something that just isn’t needed.
This is a shame because Balasingam shows a genuine talent for film directing, a talent that is matched in all the departments, the acting is sublime, the writing is strong and the subject matter very important. Just ask yourself how you would behave if you were living in constant fear of a drone strike or a bomb dropping on your head killing you and your family instantly at any given moment?
As he makes more movies I have no doubt Balasingam will be showered with awards as there is a lot of promise here, and he has an original voice and viewpoint that is rarely heard but much needed. For the opening shot alone, Toaster is worth checking out.