Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Plot: When a restless young woman joins an interstellar war, she battles the unseen foe of isolation both in space and time.
Review: It has been said that “Good science fiction holds a mirror to society”, and in Sci Fi short Jettison writer/director JJ Pollack focuses that mirror on one of the more subtle ravages of war — the emotional and psychological impact of the alienation veterans experience when sent off to combat. And this is science fiction, so things get turned up to 11. Firstly, let’s discuss what this film is not. Though the set-up is an interstellar war, that is solely a vehicle for the drama. We don’t actually see much of the war other than a few brief glimpses, and the who, what and why of the conflict is never explained. And it makes sense as the film is more concerned about the concept and effect of war than the circumstances of the particular war in this particular tale. Pollack in his director’s statement described it as a “war movie without the war.”
The first thing viewers would notice is the film is shot in black and white, which is rare these days for movies of any genre, but especially for the highly visual genre that is science fiction. Visually it makes Jettison really stand out among its peers, and cinematographer Garson Ormiston utilises the palette and some gorgeous wide shots to emphasise the theme of separation.
The bleak, stark look and lack of colour also reflects the isolation and slow “death” experienced by our protagonist Rebka (Madison Wilson is a solid, nuanced performance). When she first enlists there is excitement at the prospect of visiting new worlds and experiencing new relationships. But Rebka failed to truly count the cost of what she was signing up for, and both the separation of being literally worlds away and the time dilation effect of the space travel completely separates her from her loved ones. This isolation chips and chips away at her until there is little left, and in the end the weight of all she had lost is quite tangible. It is a dreary tale and a poignant one, reminding civilians like me how much those in the service have to sacrifice.
The story also frequently jumps time and location, making the viewer feel as disoriented as the protagonist. Now this works in a sense, and we are somewhat grounded by Rebka’s log entries, but I did find myself lost at times. I think an additional time and space tracking device would have been helpful to keeping the story straight. That, and I found the injury makeup could have been more believable, were my two quibbles with the film, but they are minor ones.
Jettison premiered at the 2021 Austin Film Festival, made its LA debut at HollyShorts, and won second prize at Seattle International Film Festival’s Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF). With its strong visual style and resonant themes, I see this short as having some legs and I would recommend it to our Red Mango Readers. Just be reminded that if you’re looking for a Sci Fi war movie with “pew pew” then this short will be a “no no” for you. But if you want thoughtful science fiction with a lot to say, then definitely sign up.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Jettison is available to watch for free on the YouTube channel Dust (check out by clicking here). And you can check out more Sci Fi short content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating tabletop games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.