Starting as a flashing and flickering barrage of video equipment a la Requiem for a Dream-style blitzed editing, 11:59 starts with a news crew, reporter Laura (Lisa Wonders) and photojournalist Aaron (Raymond Andrew Bailey) , searching for a known child murderer amongst the streets of suburban America. As happenstance would allow, the two mistakenly run into this suspect as they speed down a backroad. When the situation wouldn't permit a chase in the automobile, Aaron hops out and follows on foot with camera in hand. Instead of a fumbling missed opportunity, the pursuit turns into the biggest story of the team's life as Aaron locates the suspect in a closed off cul-de-sac. But as the mutterings of "conspiracy" about politics and an upcoming election escape the fugitive's lips amidst his capture, Aaron feels bestricken with the camera cautiously upon his shoulder.
Following a drunken yet subdued night out in celebration of his achievement, Aaron discovers something startling as he wakes up the next morning: he's alone and spastically darting glances in several directions at endless barren fields. Bewildered, he flags down a truck to take him back to civilization. Once he returns, he discovers that somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 hours have passed since he blacked out beside his truck. Several key incidents, including an important assassination, took place without his camera's coverage during his blackout. Now, Aaron starts a search to find out exactly how all these events came about, what he's missed, and how all of it connects to this conspiracy mentioned at the suspect's capture.
11:59 harnesses this bizarre dispersed time mechanic and bolts it to the screen with a collage of vicious, fluctuating visual schemes. We're taken along Aaron's ramshackle pathway from start to finish with an incredibly shaky method of cinematic conception. Matched with equally spastic editing, these tangible impressions can be both charming and maddening. Enveloping usage of lurid color, like the recurring amber shades in the fields and during Aaron's drinking binges, counteract equally dull slate palettes like those within the urban shots. Then, once your eyes get use to these differences in hues, you've got to keep on your toes during an equally sporadic blend of slow-motion captures and wildly furious editing. It's a lot to keep up with without a great deal of payoff, though it sure is entrancing to look at.
All these visual techniques seem like a smoke screen painted atop the film in fear of an unoriginal core. It's a shame, because the premise underneath 11:59's thick coat of blinding style can be rather absorbing, even though it has to muscle through some bland dialogue to do so. As Aaron wakes up in the deserted field with nobody around, we actively and inquisitively wonder why on earth this cameraman of all people gets this relocation treatment. This interest builds as we discover his negligence towards this action-packed day that he should have participated in while on duty with camera in hand. Contemplating on the possibility that an election the news team is covering might have something to do with malignant local events, including the murders that the original fugitive was involved in, proves to be an engaging treasure hunt.
Even through a few more dizzying twists and turns through an inexplicable time mechanic, 11:59 never really answered the primary questions that I had rolling around in my head about Aaron's blackout and disappearance. Instead, a multitude of other small puzzle pieces, including answers to numerous side mysteries brimming underneath the narrative, try to fit in place of this primary gaping hole. Though they're compelling little nuggets that lend some satisfaction at the end of the maze, ultimately we almost feel like we arrived at the wrong destination since the film's core science-fiction mechanic lacks cohesion with the rest.
That doesn't mean 11:59 lacks the charisma to keep interest, though. Its strong push towards stylish flair keeps its contorted nature more alluring than detracting. More importantly, the stripped down low-budget techniques used to capture a lot of these effects add a lot of strong independent panache in the film. We just have to forget about the dots connecting seamlessly in 11:59's twisty narrative, which is somewhat pardonable when it maintains this attentive, compelling demeanor.
11:59 comes presented from Tartan in a standard keepcase DVD with repeated coverart and discart, along with nice insert artwork for the foldout chapter listing.
11:59 has the visual pleasure of being shot in high definition, which helps the film's photography along wonderfully. Through this anamorphic presentation, the obscure balance between screamingly loud amber shades and muted slate elements works quite nicely on this disc. Little minute details, like bubbles in water and facial hair, really shine throughout the film. It's a jerky road with the editing and camera movement, but Tartan makes certain that the stable elements in 11:59 look as clean as possible.
The 5.1 mixes, both in DTS and Dolby Digital, suffer a bit. It seems like the musical elements and LFE channels sit at a higher volume level, which means that vocal presentation is drowned out a bit. When both aren't going on at the same time, dialogue sounds clean and quite audible. Surround activity pops in here and there with musical bits and pieces and car activity, but most of the film sits in the front speakers. As to be expected, the DTS 5.1 track offers a bit more breadth and expansiveness with the sound. An English 2.0 Dolby track is also available, as are Spanish subtitles.
11:59 comes with a few quality extras about the film, as well as one seperately stellar addition:
- Director and Director of Photography Commentary -
Personal commentaries from independent directors prove to be some of the more interesting and insightful pieces across supplemental material. This commentary is no exception, as the extra points Winans and his director of photography, Jeff Pointer, really illuminate a lot of their techniques. It gets a little overly tech-based when it comes to the camera specs and such, but it still delivers a lot of really great points from both of these filmmakers.
- Interviews -
Prepare for a cluster of press junket interviews that repeat a lot of the same material across the board from all parties. With each individual, including Winans, Pointer, Bailey, and producer Joe Sekiya, we do soak in some knowledge from their time in front of the camera, but overall these clips generally overview the plot and the main character Aaron's "jaded" persona.
- Spin: Short Film with Optional Commentary -
Though I feel a little reserved about 11:59, I can safely say I loved Winans' short, Spin. It's about a turntable DJ who discovers that his equipment can be used to control the flow of universe. However, of course, once he messes with the fabric of time to rectify one mistake, another one rises from his alterations. It's a common theme, but the way Winans and his crew put this together is stellar. From the awesome demeanor of the DJ to the great comedy all the way through its short time frame, Spin is a wonderful achievement. Winans commentary gives us the bones and pieces about its conception. Kudos go out for these guys putting this entertaining little gem together.
- Trailers -
Both an Original Trailer and trailers for other Tartan Releases are included.
11:59 skips over a few steps with its explanations and leaps about a bit with its visual style, but Winans makes certain to tell this story with enough swallowing scope that it keeps us guessing until the end. The multi-layered obscurity might make this one worth a purchase for a few to piece together all the nuances, but most will be able to sit down and enjoy this low-budget mystery with nothing more than a Rental.