Prodigy is not in and of itself a straight up horror movie. It’s more of a journey with supernatural elements and divine characteristics. This film chooses deep thought scenarios over outright violence and does a great job incorporating the element of an all-powerful being without coming off as preachy. Writer/director Nathan Leon (The Sidewalk Chronicles 2014) focuses on Prodigy’s human element, always keeping the supernatural just under the surface and using it only to remind the audience that a clock is ticking away. This journey will ultimately come to an end. The only other question is, will the human race survive?
A broken widower shuffles through life while disappearing down the bottle to escape the unrelenting pain of the loss of his wife which haunts his dreams. A visit from a doctor breaks his depraved routine with a request from his estranged son to bring him to an undisclosed location in order to receive the final message that will foretell the fate of all mankind.
Prodigy cold opens with Erik (Cory Kays: Drafted 2035) delivering a voice over about the belief in miracles and our desire for proof of their existence to a montage of people in various places lying immobile on the ground. Erik comes to, surrounded by booze and pills, with the television reporting on events which took place that day.
A feeling of hopelessness permeates Erik’s day to day life as we watch him slowly unravel. Not only is he running out of hope, he’s also running out money to pay the rent. With his last dollars, he buys a gun and proceeds to have what one would think is his last night of drinking alone, the gun next to him.
A doctor shows up at his door, along with Erik’s estranged son’s strange request, and a reluctant offer to compensate the widower if he would grant the boy’s request for Erik to help him with his vision. Erik agrees to get the boy talking for the doctor and his herd of soldiers. We get the distinct feeling that Erik resents his son and really doesn’t care about him at all. Still, he cannot resist this request to help the boy escape his imprisonment in order to safely receive his final, miraculous message from God.
Prodigy is a slickly made film with a solid behind-the-scenes crew giving it that polished feel you’ve come to expect from a selection in the Uncork’d Entertainment distribution catalogue. It has a distinct, dreamlike quality to it that melds real life action with deliberate dream sequences, intentionally blurring the lines between clearcut visions and the character’s inner development, all while being wistfully moved along by it’s destinctly melodic score, which was used to great effect.
Embry Johnson (Slapped! The Movie 2018) plays Caleb, the fourteen-year-old estranged son of Erik who had received celestial messages about the day planes fell out of the sky, and every single person on the planet were simultaneously unconscious for three minutes. Some hail the boy as a prophet, some call him a fraud, and some want him dead before he can receive his final message.
Embry plays Caleb right down the middle. In one sense, he is a normal kid who has no problem pointing out his dad’s shortcomings, but there is never a feeling that he is a brat. The young actor does a commendable job walking the razor’s edge, using just enough restraint with the character in order preserve his pious nature.
As a journey film, Prodigy’s roots are in character development, and this is where the introduction of Maya, played by Hailey Henry (All Hell Breaks Loose 2014), brings the entire story together. She is the glue that holds the group together, relentlessly pushing them forward. Her character softens the mood and drives the exposition which finally gives us a window into where Erik’s pain is rooted, and why he shunned his only son in the first place.
I haven’t seen any of Henry’s previous films before, but I swore I had seen her somewhere. She has that familiar look about her, and her performance is effortless and genuine. There are only certain actors that have that “It Factor.” Hailey Henry is a star, and I can tell you that she will be going far in this business. Keep an eye out for her.
Although Prodigy is a film based on religious themes, it often feels like a zombie movie minus the zombies. There is an impending feeling of doom, a “chosen one” who must keep moving forward to a prophetic destination, new friends made along the way, betrayal, and murder.
Above all, the film reminds us that no matter what great challenge lies at the end of the road for us as a species, we will always bicker and fight amongst ourselves. We always become our own worst enemy, just hoping we can figure it all out before we run out of time. This ever ticking clock pulls the characters together in a way that ties the whole story into a bow, or a knot, depending on the unique take of the characters in this film. Prodigy is a movie about points of views. Only you can chose yours. Decide for yourself.
Just shy of two hours long, Prodigy is not to be taken lightly. As with any movie that follows an ordained group of people, you need that time to develop the characters, watch them grow personally and as a group. I never once felt like the film dragged or needed any scenes to be cut out. The pacing and tone were always on point. I have nothing but respect for Nathan Leon and everyone involved with this project. If you like watching characters grow and tagging along on epic adventures while dodging merciless mercenaries, check out Nathan Leon’s Prodigy!