Review of “Pitch Black Heist” by John Maclean

“Pitch Black Heist” is John Maclean’s directorial debut that won the 2012 BAFTA Award for Best Short Film and that was shown at countless Film Festivals around the globe.

It follows during thirteen minutes the story of Michael and Liam, two Irish professional safe crackers who meet on a job to relieve an office safe from its content. The catch, though, is a light activated alarm system forcing the two thieves to embark on a pitch-black heist.

It took three months to the ex Beta Band keyboardist to write the script and three days to shoot it in a pub and warehouse in London. It is influenced by French black and white films from the 1950s and especially inspired by the director’s favorite film “Rififi”, a 1950s heist film, where there is a part in which the thieves cannot make a sound. There are indeed many film noir references. Moreover, he wrote it with Michael Fassbender in mind. In fact, this is their second work together. Maclean’s 2009 short “Man On A Motorcycle” was actually the beginning of their productive collaboration. It was when Fassbender was shooting “Inglorious Basterds” with Quentin Tarantino and thus emerging as one of Hollywood’s most talented and charismatic leading men.

This short film is stylish and impressively made, visually powerful with Robbie Ryan’s beautiful cinematography and Bryan Michael Mills’ music that make robbery look beautiful and remind us of the film noir genre. The fact that it was shot in black and white, along with Teresa Brewer’s 1960s song “If there are stars in my eyes” are very effective indeed, contributing highly to the wonderful combination of comedy and drama and brilliant tension. And, all of this was possible thanks to Maclean’s talent and the actors’ on-screen pitch perfect chemistry.

This one is a jewel among short films and if you have an opportunity to see it, don’t miss it! It is definitely one of my favorites!



Production: Film 4 (UK 2011). Executive producers: Liam Cunningham, Michael Fassbender, Conor McCaughan and Jo McClellan. Producers: Gerardine O’Flynn. Director: John Maclean. Screenplay: John Maclean. Photography: Robbie Ryan. Music: Bryan Michael Mills. Production design: Sarah Finlay. Editing: John Maclean.

Cast: Liam Cunningham (Liam), Michael Fassbender (Michael), Alex MacQueen (Alex MacQueen).

Black & White – 13 min.

Note: This review was first published on Yellow Bread’s sister publication, The Film Prospector, in October 2012.

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