“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be” singer-songwriter John Lennon once famously sang and that sage bromide easily applies to writer-director Harley Wallen’s mindbender of a thriller – Eternal Code. Though the film toils in fertile soil that produces suspense, drama, action and intrigue, it transcends the more typical film programmers that barely even scratch the surface of the above tropes, let alone explore heady and heavy stuff such as predestination and the morality and ethics of fundamentally altering human aging. Eternal Code has lofty ambitions and aims towards the fence with every swing. When it falls short – which is not that often – it’s not through lack of trying on the part of the filmmaker and actors.
The film opens with a cutting back and forth between storylines: The overarching arc is that of Erika Hoveland’s Bridget Pellegrini: This well-meaning CEO of a genetic research company faces the moral conundrum of placing a veritable fountain of youth device in the hands of a dubious and sketchy company her own company is in the process of merging with. The eternal life technology in Wallen’s taut scripting consists of the transference of mind into a new body and comes from the same wonderfully delirious humbug school of Rod Serling’s The Brain Center At Whipple’s episode of The Twilight Zone and Ray Bradbury’s short story, I Sing the Body Electric in which Bradbury ruminated on artificial life and our own mortality. I use the term “humbug” advisedly, as both Serling’s and Bradbury’s prognostications of what future technology might look like have, in many ways, come to pass. There’s an air of prophecy about Harley Wallen’s bit of Magic 8 Ball gazing, too, and that lends an energy and excitement to Eternal Code that is positively crackling. Simply put, the idea of mind-body transference doesn’t seem too far-fetched in this wacked out and wonky world of the 21st century.
After standing firm against the original deal and effectively putting it out to pasture, Bridget and her husband (the always consummate and classy actor Billy Wirth) are kidnapped by a disgruntled faction of the spurned company in an attempt to fix the impending vote to approve or dismiss the above mentioned humbug.
Which leads us to the other story in Eternal Code that crashes full tilt boogie into the ordeal of a conflicted CEO and questions about immortality: Damien Chinappi delivers a tour de force performance as a suicidal on the bum veteran named Corey whose life becomes inexorably linked to Bridget and her family. Enlisted by Miranda (Angelina Danielle Cama in a star-making turn), the teenage daughter of the Pellegrini’s, the two mismatched souls form an ad hoc trio with Stephanie (transcendent Kaiti Wallen), a wayward prostitute with a heart of gold. Their mission: To rescue the husband-wife duo and prevent a potentially dastardly use of the eternal life equation by ne’er do well bad guys.
This is a movie with real heart and depth and uses what director Alfred Hitchcock famously coined as a “MacGuffin” (in Eternal Code the proposed fountain of youth device). In other words, what’s really going on here is a story about families and choices we all make in our daily lives between what’s right and what is wrong. The actuality of something that can transfer a human mind into another body is fascinating and heady and entirely incidental to the action and intrigue and big, beating heart that loops up and down and all around like a demented rollercoaster ride from hell. Director Harley Wallen (who himself appears in a small but important role in the film) checks all of the boxes that normally go hand in hand with this genre: Suspense? Check. Action? Yep. Drama? You better believe it. It has a little something for everyone but it never dilutes itself by attempting to appease expectations. Instead, it transcends and supersedes the clichés and creates a world that you can almost believe in, that’s as omnipresent as the world outside your window and as lofty and as spiritual as any Sunday mass you’ve ever attended.
Praise should be given, too, for the steady journeyman work of Scout Taylor-Compton (in a role originally intended for Jake Busey), Richard Tyson, Yan Birch, Mel Novak and Shane Hagedorn, among other superlative actors. Everyone is pitch perfect and, for an hour and forty five minutes, they weave a spell that more than holds.
Director Harley Wallen has delivered an off the fists movie that is well worth checking out on Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.