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Latency Film Review: Claustrophobic Thriller

A girl with blond hair looks at the camera intensely in a still from the film Latency

Latency is a thrillingly claustrophobic sci-fi debut feature from James Croke, where Sasha Luss plays a character who experiments with new gaming technology.

Director: James Croke
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Action
Run Time: 94′
US Release: June 14, 2024
UK Release: TBA
Where to watch: in theaters

The lines between reality and fiction swiftly become blurred when a mysterious unlabeled parcel arrives on gamer Hana’s (Sasha Luss) doorstep. Inside the package is a new AI device: the Omnia. It’s described as a ‘brain computer interface’ which attaches to the back of the user’s head and can access every thought, feeling, even every fear.

The Omnia has been sent to Hana to trial, a month before its official release date out in the world, due to her high expertise in playing video games and testing new software. Latency explores just how far Hana will go to win, even when peculiar things begin to happen in the real world and not just in her games.

Hana’s days are spent by the computer, often accompanied by her best friend Jen (Alexis Ren), as she plays her days away in online gaming tournaments, aiming to be the best at her sport. Due to Hana’s agoraphobia, she’s never left her apartment building, with the only outside connection being Jen. When the Omnia makes its way into the picture, she quickly realises that she can attach it to the inside of the computer processor and play games with her brain, without even reaching for the mouse or keyboard. Attaining first place becomes a whole lot easier, but not without consequence. Data from the games she plays seeps its way into Hana’s reality, with no way of knowing which parts are just holograms or what monsters are really in front of her.

Writer/director James Croke is new onto the scene: Latency is his debut feature. It’s promising when a director’s freshman project is as enjoyable as Latency is. I can see Croke emerging his way into the world of sci-fi, developing projects similar to Ex Machina and Upgrade, two films which share similarities to Latency with their themes surrounding AI technology.

The faces of two blonde girls leaning on each other looking sad in a still from the film Latency
Latency (Lionsgate)

Leading lady Luss is phenomenal in every moment as Hana, and as the credits rolled, it left me warning more of her in a starring role. After her first principal role as the titular character in Anna, Latency seems like the perfect follow up. Luss is made to be a character who takes centre stage. Ren is equally as good at playing Hana’s companion Jen. The two get on like a house on fire, with performances that make it believable that they’ve been friends forever. It’s enlivening to see two incredible actresses guiding a film like Latency with such talent.

Apartment 707, where Hana resides, is darkly lit, with daylight only seen through a few cracks in the curtains. A haunting eeriness is felt right from the get-go, setting the scene in the most ideally creepy way from the very first minute of the hour and a half runtime. The entire front room feels claustrophobic, and as it’s where most of the film is set, the feeling of being trapped can be felt directly through the screen. One-location thrillers are sometimes hard to execute, as you’re very limited with where the characters can go and how their story can develop. Latency manages to succeed in creating a daunting thriller, which is not only enjoyable but unpredictable.

If you’re looking for something intense but not too scary, Latency is the ideal watch.

Latency will be released in US theaters on June 14, 2024.

Latency: Trailer (Lionsgate)
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