Fantasia Review: 'Indemnity' Is a How-To on Great Action Sequences Directed by Travis Taute
Starring Jarrid Geduld, Gail Mabalane, Andre Jacobs, Nicole Fortuin, Gail Mabalane
Published Aug 20, 2021It's safe to say that there is a genre film Renaissance happening in South Africa right now, as a new generation of directors are making films they want to see. Glasshouse, Fried Barry and Gaia are perfect examples of this in 2021 alone, and Indemnity can be added to the list.
In his feature directorial debut, Travis Taute creates a large-scale action film while delivering important commentary on mental health stigma (especially among men) and post-traumatic stress disorder. The protagonist, Theo (Jarrid Geduld), is a former fireman with PTSD. The disorder affects Theo to his core, causing him to act out in fits of rage and turning him into a stranger in his wife's eyes.
One morning Theo awakes next to his wife's lifeless body. With no memory of the previous night, Theo is horrified, panicked and confused. He soon finds himself on the run and Cape Town's top public enemy for her murder. In an effort to survive, he uncovers a vast conspiracy that he's unknowingly been at the centre of.
Indemnity is a strong thriller with hints of The Fugitive and Man on Fire. The fight choreography is great — tactical, precise, and grounded in realism. And the stunts are very impressive; the breakout action star is without question Geduld, who performed all his own stunts, including being hung out of a 21st storey window. Because of Geduld's physicality, Taute is able to film Indemnity without frenetic jump cuts. Instead, he can show the audience the action as-is, emphasizing the grounded nature of the film.
Aside from his capabilities as an action star, Geduld also turns in a fine performance as a man suffering from trauma and grief. The vulnerability and subtle moments of defeat he shows work well against the physical strength he displays. This contrast works well in establishing the dichotomy Taute aims for: hyper-masculine men impacted by raw emotions.
Indemnity's ending raises some interesting questions about society's attitudes surrounding PTSD and trauma. Taute uses science-fiction elements to create a thought-provoking reveal that unfortunately gets muddled in some lengthy expositional dialogue, a common pitfall of action films. Overall though, Indemnity is a good ride. The action is tight and shot well, and the social commentary is effective in delivering a well-balanced action film.
Fantasia has showcased some great South African talent this year, Travis Taute has established himself as yet another promising director to keep an eye on.
Fantasia Film Festival runs August 5 to 25 in Montreal. Screenings take place both virtually and in-person. (XYZ Films)