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[Fantasia ’21] ‘Indemnity’ review: Familiar fun from South Africa

A flawed throwback.

Indemnity is a South African action thriller that starts off like many stories of espionage. There is the heart pounding music, chaotic chases, and talk of hackers and security systems. In other words, it might be fun, but there is probably going to be too much going on. Theo Abrams is a former Cape Town fireman suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When he wakes up one morning next to his wife’s murdered corpse, the police quickly identify him as the prime suspect. It soon turns out there are much greater forces at work.

Indemnity may have a familiar premise, but there is depth to its characters. Theo is not just the normal hero with a troubled past. He is frustrated, angry, and yes, traumatized, but he is also a husband and father. This is incredibly important since it prevents things from getting stale. (It should be noted, the characters are interesting enough to keep the film moving, but are not actually explored too much beyond the surface.)

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Indemnity does have the habit of talking through all its plot points. On many occasions the audience does not get to figure out or see what is happening. Instead, they are told in long wordy exchanges. These moments are fine, in some cases they even highlight aspects of the characters. But they rarely bring anything new to the actual story. It ends up being a trade off that does not always work.

[Fantasia '21] 'Indemnity' review: Familiar fun from South Africa

Once the mystery kicks into gear, Indemnity becomes more comfortable with itself. The film is at its best when it focuses on action.  It is more content to let things happen than to force feed dialogue. While this issue never goes away entirely, it is much less noticeable. The camerawork stands out during these moments. The mix of fast paced excitement in tight fitting spaces is an odd one, but it looks good.

In the end, this may be the best way to describe the movie. It is a somewhat strange mix of 1990s action clichés unironically thrown into the 21st century. If anything, it can be seen as an homage to the summer blockbusters of back then. This also means its characters have some depth, but are given little to do aside from help advance the plot. It has all been seen before, but it is entertaining.

The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25

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