A young woman named Aria Wolf (Charlotte Best) wakes up in an elevator, finding she is tied up and blindfolded. She soon breaks free from her bindings and discovers that she is alone in a high-speed elevator in Shanghai with no memory of her past. Aria also has no clue who her captors are, nor why they would kidnap her and hold her in a building 120 floors high. Attempting to break out of the elevator, she uses the inbuilt phone system and escape hatch but has no luck. She also discovers her phone hidden in her back pocket with minimal battery life. Soon Aria has the chance to talk with her captors, try to work out what they want and, more importantly, try to escape the elevator and gain freedom. Along the way, she will also learn more about her hidden past and the incredible power inside her. Ascendant was created by first time director Antaine Furlong, who also serves as a writer and exclusive producer.
The film’s opening is grand. The audience and Aria share in the mystery together, with little information given about her current situation. It is undoubtedly an excellent mystery, to begin with, and more secrets are introduced as the film progresses. As Aria tries to reason and talk with her captors, we are shown moments from her past when she was a young child.
Visually Ascendant is perfect. The visuals are incredibly stunning right from the film’s opening. Any moments that contain CGI were also striking to witness on the big screen. The film’s sound effects were another pleasing element. Even more likeable was the film’s soundtrack, composed by David Hirschfelder, who is well known for his work in many other Australian films such as Shine, Elizabeth, and Australia. Performances throughout the film are ok with some side performances equivalent to what one might see in a video game.
As a plot, while I enjoyed the film’s opening, general premise, and some of the introduced mysteries, I cannot deny that the film is slightly complex and confusing, contrasting with other moments that feel vague. While backstories to Aria’s past are welcoming to see, I found these moments lacked core details that would have assisted the film’s plot. Major twists that Aria encounters throughout the movie while being trapped in the elevator were also entirely predictable.
Overall, as a directional debut by Antaine Furlong, this film is quite an achievement for Australian Cinema. The film is visually stunning to watch from start to finish with excellent CGI work and an impressive soundtrack by composer David Hirschfelder. Performances are generally acceptable, and the film’s plot, for the most part, is also pleasing, but it certainly lacks detail and clarity. As a directional debut, it’s a step in the right direction, and I look forward to what’s to come from Antaine Furlong. Based on this film’s quality and production, it is best to view it on a giant screen with an impressive sound system. Ascendant (2021) is Now Available on Blu-ray & DVD!