The Case Against Mr. Sheppard is a thrilling short film that captures pure suspense through only the reaction of characters and dialogue. An interrogation that’s more about who has the best of wits and who really has the upper-hand. It starts with forcing us to think that this will be another typical detective story, but within in this 12 minute short, there’s twists I didn’t even see coming.
It opens on the Detective inviting Sheppard, an insurance agent, over for some questioning. The Detective beats around the bush for a bit while offering Sheppard some tea and snacks; all of which is declined. Finally the Detective gets to the point. A famous punk rocker was found dead and Sheppard was his insurance agent. But he wasn’t the only famous person Sheppard had been an agent for as it goes much, MUCH, deeper than that.
One thing that really made this work for me was the writing of the characters. The dialogue felt extremely natural and each time one would get closer to uncovering the truth, it would cut to their reaction in a realistic manner. The dialect for each character was vastly different and made them that much more defined with what their motives may, or may not, be. Of course I have to mention the acting. Both did a phenomenal job at bringing their characters to life.
The cinematography was extremely well done. The lighting gave it a grim tone and the medium close-up’s evolution to close up’s by the end only increased the thrill to get to the truth. The setup of the camera had very little movement. Almost every shot is a static shot. At times I felt like I was on a swing because of how much I would move with the camera cuts; back and forth… back and forth. It added to the experience of not knowing who to believe as I kept going to one character, believing them, and then to another and thinking that character actually might be right.
The direction of the two characters was extremely well done as well. It’s the little things that each character does that adds more to the question of what exactly their motives are. It seems the director here intentionally showed more reactions from each character to keep us unbiased. It’s not until towards the end when their little moments, like shifting in a chair, really adds a whole new meaning of tension.
It helps that the underscore really highlighted these moments as well. It wasn’t too loud, yet it wasn’t too subtle. And I personally think the music at the beginning and the end was fantastic. It reminds me of the neo-noir films from the 90’s that would have an awesome intro with some neat music. It felt super gritty, sort of like the movie SE7EN from David Fincher. When you see the flashing of the pictures to the names of those involved in the film, you’ll know what I mean.
A part of me wishes there was a little bit more creativity with the camera movement because it was so static throughout. If there were a few more pans or dolly shots it could have spruced up the tension even more between the two characters. That would help those moments of silence where the air that sits between the two characters slowly gets filled by us, as if we’re invading to get closer to their true intentions. Closer to finding out their true identities.