Trail of Ashes is a fantasy thriller that will sound familiar to fans of the genre. The search for the lost daughter of an empress brings two brothers back together. They were raised on opposite sides of a war and now face conflicts they never imagined. The film begins with a voiceover that explains what happened two centuries ago. As Trail of Ashes progresses, there are lands to be discovered, political ideologies to navigate, and battles to be fought. The movie plays out like a fantasy novel at times since that is what it was initially conceived as.
Silas is a member of the Crow Tribe posing as a quill (similar to a detective). He is tasked to question a prisoner of the empire. The prisoner turns out to be Silas’s brother Marco who may have information about the missing daughter. Trail of Ashes is more of a mystery thriller than a fantasy. There is talk of haunted forests and prophecies, but the plot is really about what happened to the daughter of the empress. This is further punctuated by the setting of the modern portions of the film. The majority or the scenes are Silas interviewing Marco in a cell.
This leads to some pacing issues. The story being told is very erratic. Aside from the flashbacks and interview sequences are the moments when Silas speaks with a barkeep who knows his true identity. The mystery is never given a chance to fully develop suspense and the relationship between the brothers is never fully explored. It is more frustrating than actually bad.
What makes this so bothersome is Trail of Ashes teases some interesting lore. Characters have the potential to be robust but are only explored at the surface level. There are some interesting customs that the audience is just expected to accept. The movie seems to be giving the audience a very small slice of what the unexplained land has to offer. Again, it is not aggressively bad, but the missed opportunities are there.
Fantasy movies often get mistaken as fodder for nerds with little more than magic and dragons. This is rarely the case as Trail of Ashes proves. The movie is an attempt at a deeper storytelling and themes. Ultimately, the movie is unable to succeed at everything, but things pick up enough towards the end to make it an interesting watch.
Trail of Ashes premieres December 1st.
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