Review: Triggered

Directed by Tara Westwood, who also stars in the film, and written by Thomas Dunn, a US Senator faces her greatest challenge when a home invasion takes a shocking turn. Also starring: Isiah Whitlock Jr., Caitlin Mehner and Robert John Burke.

One of the most constantly poignant, relevant and frustrating topics in America is gun crime, the sheer amount of innocent people killed each year by senseless violence is relentlessly horrifying. Wherein comes Triggered but instead of focusing on that brutality, it takes a look at the people who are left behind. The story is one of extremes but at the same time is very relatable, as you can easily imagine that how when dealing with such devastating loss, someone could be pushed to such limits. The story plays out with an underlying, growing intensity, keeping its tone in the dramatic realm rather than leaning into thriller. The progression works really well to keep a sense of mystery and allow it to fully reveal itself at a patient pace.

There’s an element to its visual style which feels theatrical, a simplicity that strengthens the focus on the emotionally charged dialogue. It’s then pushed further by the dark palette which helps with its intensity, under the cover of darkness, adding an extra edge to the story. Simultaneously it brings a level of intimacy, which is interesting when dealing with such a widely applicable story, pushing that personal nature instead of trying to look at it through the bigger picture. There’s also the balance between playing into the political element but never letting it take over. It embraces the conversation about prevention through stricter laws and restrictions but doesn’t become bogged down by it, staying true to that story of family, loss and frustration.

Of course you can’t have such a powerfully intimate story without great performances and there’s no denying that there’s a strong ensemble at work here. Isiah Whitlock Jr. stands out immediately, he has such a brilliant emotional range and an impressive level of presence. He brings a big variety of feeling here, there’s an evolution for his character from start to finish and it’s moving to watch unfold. He’s then supported superbly by Caitlin Mehner who brings the other side to the coin, a severe coldness gained from having nothing left to lose and no more hope. Mehner instils that apathy blended with sheer anger, a feeling which sadly seems all to familiar. Director Tara Westwood and Robert John Burke then give us the alternative perspective, the bystanders making choices which have directly impacted the lives of others, while feeling no responsibility until it turns up on their doorstep. They do a great job of having their characters try to play the classic privilege and manipulation, it has a patronising edge which feels very realistic.

Triggered takes on the topic of gun crime with an intimate intensity. It goes down an extreme route with its story while the tone and atmosphere hold a more dramatic feel. There’s a smart simplicity to it, letting to focus forever remain on the dialogue and the superb performances from its cast. Isiah Whitlock Jr. delivers a poignant and moving portrayal, going straight to the heart of loss. It’s a gripping, original story and takes on a hugely relevant topic with an accessible and engaging touch.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

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