I've seen Keanu Reeves play Hamlet on the stage of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, so you would think the guy couldn't surprise me anymore.
But Reeves does just that, essentially playing the role of interviewer in this film geek doc examining the question of film vs. digital.
I've watched Reeves field a lot of bone-headed questions from reporters in my time at film festivals and film junkets, but the 48-year-old actor makes a decent reporter himself as he talks to some legendary directors, brilliant cinematographers and seasoned editors.
As it happens, Reeves has relationships with many of these people, such as Lana and Andy Wachowski, who directed him in the Matrix trilogy. A comfortable rapport makes for a rewarding inquiry into the current status of the film-vs.digital video debate, which still rages though, technically, digital media is clearly coming out ahead.
Director Chris Kenneally lays out the differences between the two formats in clear and concise fashion, and brings forth a series of expert witnesses to debate the merits of either format.
In terms of big guns, George Lucas and James Cameron take the side of the digital form, as it is more amenable to the abundance of visual effects layered into Star Wars I-III and Avatar. But it is director Danny Boyle who emerges as the most convincing from the digital camp, discussing how the lightweight portability of digital allowed him to catch those stunning Omega Man-like shots of Cillian Murphy wandering through a deserted London in 28 Days Later. In 2008, 28 Days cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle legitimized the use of digital cameras in landmark fashion by winning the Oscar for his deft work on Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire.
Taking the side of film, directors Chris Nolan and David Fincher offer convincing defences of the film medium, despite the fact that film technology has essentially peaked (no new film cameras are currently being made). It still looks better than current ultra-high definition video, and a look at film-shot works such as Dark Knight Rising and Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo make a compelling case.
But the last word must go to Robert Rodriguez who says that if digital has not yet reached the quality of film, it's only a matter of time.
As for this documentary? It was shot digitally. It might not have been possible if shot on film, which may be the most compelling, albeit unspoken argument of all.
Side By Side
Directed by Chris Kenneally
3 1/2 stars out of five