No Running attempts to use a science-fiction premise to comment on current society. As shows like the original The Twilight Zone have shown, this is not the worst idea. In fact, it has proven to be very successful. The more fantastic parts of the story take on added realism. The over the top structure of sci-fi can be very successful in dealing with the grounded issues of the real world.
The movie opens with a young Black man inside a car that has obviously been involved in a violent wreck. As a swarm of police cars approach, Jaylen (Skylan Brooks) flees the scene. It is revealed that one of his classmates has disappeared and he is a suspect. But the town of Mount Arrow houses some dark secrets and otherworldly factors may be at play.
The first two acts of No Running have an old school UFO conspiracy vibe to it. The story is like a 1950s drive-in movie with modern trappings. Paranoia runs high and the town of Mount Arrow is apparently no stranger to UFO abductions. There is even an old town kook that believes something extraterrestrial may be involved. These moments are comforting if derivative.
This is a running theme in the film. The fantasy elements of No Running are undercooked. The script seems content to rely on jump scares and tropes. The ending comes off as forced and lacking any nuance. No Running clearly has a statement to make – and it is an important one. There is nothing wrong with delivering a message in a straightforward manner. A genre film is not one of those moments.
The reason that sci-fi and horror films that effectively deliver social commentary are held in high regard is the clever delivery. That is completely lacking in No Running. This leads to the message getting lost. Without the deeper message, it is just another genre flick. Regrettably, it does not do a good job on that front, either.
The Tribeca Film Festival takes place from June 9 – June 20
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