REVIEW: Portal: No Escape [2011]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 7 minutes | Release Date: August 23rd, 2011 (USA)
Director(s): Dan Trachtenberg

But where’s the cake? Oh, right. It’s a lie …

Yeah. That’s the extent of what I know about Valve Corporation’s popular game Portal. I’ve seen my girlfriend play it a couple times and know the whole concept of setting up portals to help advance through the game, but I’m clueless to the storyline. So the question became whether or not someone without such knowledge like myself could enjoy Dan Trachtenberg‘s fan film Portal: No Escape. While I’m pretty certain players will find it much deeper as far as mythology is concerned, I can’t deny that it wasn’t still an effective experience for me just the same. And if nothing else it has me very excited to see what Trachtenberg has done on his feature length debut 10 Cloverfield Lane.

What I really enjoy about the short is that Trachtenberg keeps everything very sparse. There’s no dialogue, no exposition, and no convoluted plot inklings besides the fact that Chell (Danielle Rayne) wants out of the cell she has no as to clue why she’s even in it. That’s it: survive. So she works out to keep in shape and studies her prison for anything to serve as a way out. How she interprets a series of hash marks on a stone block to be a key to opening a window box holding an Aperture portal-making gun I have absolutely no clue. But you go with it because you know that gun is going to supply her the means of ratcheting up the action.

The ensuing chase thrills with green and blue voids assisting her movement up and out. We accept her ease at understanding their power as well as her own propensity for kicking butt and simply sit back to enjoy the ride. The spectacular special effects make this an easy sell as the portals crackle with flaming light around their edges and her gun glows bright. Just watch the behind the scenes video and marvel at how so many producers and so much money became involved in a fan film. Valve’s game is a phenomenon, though, so surely there are rich players who loved the script—especially its pessimistic end. I’m glad they did because Trachtenberg appears a legit talent. We’ll soon find out.

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