Aaron, a photojournalist, goes above and beyond the call of duty when he chases down an accused child murderer with his camera and is the first newsman on the scene of the man’s capture and arrest. After a celebration, Aaron passes out and wakes up in a field two days later with no recollection of the prior day. While unconscious, he missed the biggest news day of the year as the accused man had all charges dropped, only to be shot and killed by the father of the murdered children. Aaron must try to figure out what happened to him while he was unconscious before his entire life spirals out of control.
11:59 begins with Aaron, a photojournalist who throws caution to the wind, actually chasing down an accused murderer on foot to make sure that his news station gets the exclusive footage of the arrest. This is deemed to be almost suicidal, as he is an asthmatic who almost suffers an attack due to his over enthusiasm. He becomes the toast of the station thanks to his work and is offered a promotion by the news director. Unfortunately, that night he passes out at 11:59 and wakes up in a field two days later. While he was gone, the accused murderer was shot and killed by the father of the victim and his station missed the coverage. He is blamed because everyone knows he would have gotten the footage if he had been there. While he was “The Man” two days before, he is now just a scapegoat.
He is allowed to keep his job, though. His boss explains that his story is so ridiculous, it must be true, and his only punishment is being assigned only small, lesser stories. He is sent to interview a Latino family whose child was murdered the day before. As he listens to the interview, he realizes that their child might have been killed by the same person who killed the other children, making the man who was arrested for the murders innocent. His boss refuses to listen to his request to go after this story, because no one cares about the death of a child, unless it is a blonde haired, white girl. He loses his temper and loses his job when he insists that it is important and his boss is being racist when she ignores it. The day ends at 11:59 when he passes out once again, and wakes up during the day that he originally missed.
The movie almost takes the form of a time travel adventure, and Aaron finds he now has a chance to stop the murder of the innocent man and help to try to find out who was really responsible since he knows how everything is about to turn out. The problem with the movie is that, despite all the interesting angles the story can take, it is only concerned with Aaron and his quest for redemption. The film ends with a very open ended climax that neither explains the reason the children were killed nor the reason Aaron was able to skip around time.
The movie is instead concerned with Aaron finding himself and recognizing the importance of just being a good person, instead of an overly ambitious one. The movie starts with Aaron at his highest career point and ends with Aaron realizing that he has done something truly important to help others. Everything else in the movie is just left resting in the background.
11:59 is a movie that works despite numerous problems with both the script and the acting in the movie. The acting is very poor in many places of the movie. While Raymond Andrew Bailey is good in his role as Aaron, he is not great. His acting is wooden in many places and the script seems to dumb down his lines, so he also seems a bit simple as well. On the other hand, Liz Cunningham, as the News Director of the channel that Aaron works for, is so bad, and so wooden, that it seems she is just quoting lines that she memorized, with no acting experience at all. Actor Johnny Hayz was horrible every time he opened his mouth. It is said he was allowed to improvise and create his character’s personality, and that was a huge mistake. However, the movie itself works so well that I remained interested in it despite the amateur acting performances.
The look and feel of the film is what makes it work so well. Writer/Director Jamin Winans put together a very nice, professional looking film on a shoestring budget. He shot it entirely on location in Denver with non-professional actors, using a high definition digital video camera. Many tricks were used in the film that shows Winans has a great knowledge of modern filmmaking and apes many better directors. He is obviously a fan of Michael Mann, and uses many of the shots used in The Insider in this film’s news room scenes. There are a little too many slow motion shots and the flashback shots of Aaron from his childhood are a little too cheesy with the special effects used. Steven Soderbergh seemed to also be a great influence, as two colors are used to a great extent, with gold representing the pure, good moments, while blue tinted scenes represent the cooler, unemotional moments. Winans showcases a great style, but he needs to develop a unique style of his own if he wants to move on to a larger budget showcase. If he can create his own style with the same panache he uses to mimic other directors, he could have a great future in the business.
The best part of the film is the story, which takes a great idea and breaks it down into a small scale, affordable film. While the climax could have been handled a little better, it works for what it is, a small character study. It is not a crazy, high paced action film, but a nice little independent film about a man who does not know who he is or what he is supposed to become. There are moments where the movie tries to rise above its comfort zone as it attacks ethical concerns in journalism as well as racial stereotypes, but it is best when it is just concentrating on the character of its protagonist.
For a small, low budget film it looks great and, thanks to Tartan Video, it should receive the audience that this talented young filmmaker deserves.
Tartan picked up this American based movie and put it out on a really nice DVD. The transfer is really good visually, with a nice color palette coming through looking very nice. The two main color templates, gold and blue, are both very clear and it looks really good for a film shot on HD video. The sound is another story as the dialogue is pretty rough sounding in spots, mainly because of the ADR work that had to be done in many spots. The music sounds great in the movie, but the dialogue could have used a little work to level it out.
There is an audio commentary track with director Jamin Winans and cinematographer Jeff Pointer. It is very energetic with the two as they explain how they accomplished this movie on such a low budget. There is a lot of stuff here for young filmmakers and it is a great listen as both guys are very personable and listening to them talk was a pleasure. The guys are very knowledgeable about the business of independent filmmaking and have lots of great advice.
There is an interview section with four separate interviews with director Jamin Winans, actor Raymond Andrew Bailey, producer Joe Sekiya and cinematographer Jeff Pointer. The interview with Winans is great, as I expected it would be after listening to the commentary. There is not much repeating from the commentary track and he continues to be very knowledgeable about all the aspects behind the world of low budget filmmaking. The interview with Bailey is a little dry, and the only interesting thing to say is that his voice during this interview is an exact replication of Jeff Anderson’s (Clerks). Producer Joe Sekiya gives some nice little sound bites, including the fact that he was twenty years old when he started trying to get financing for 11:59. Jeff Pointer was very dry and boring, although he did admit that the color palette was taken from the look of Traffic.
The short film Spin is also included on the DVD. It was written, directed, shot and produced by the same men who did 11:59 and was a spectacular little film. It starred Johnny Hayz, who I hated in 11:59. He was great in this movie, because he had no lines and it was all about facial expressions. With these limitations, he was just about perfect in his role. Hayz stars as a man who walks across an accident where a bicyclist was hit by a car. He pulls out a turntable and begins to use his DJ skills to scratch his discs, rewinding and flash forwarding through time to find out what sequence caused the accident. He uses his turntable to help avert the accident, only causing a worst tragedy to occur. The short continues until he is finally able to fix everything at the scene of the accident for the better. Shot for $500, it looks great and really showcases the talents of Winans.