World War II films tend to reflect the immensity of the conflict in the scale of the production. On a fraction of the usual budget, Canopy adopts a more modest, arty approach to the war, following a downed pilot from Down Under, stranded behind enemy lines, as he trudges through the jungles of Singapore and attempts to evade the Imperial Japanese Army.
In many ways, Canopy is closer to a fairy tale than a war film, its soldier like a hero on a perilous, mystical journey through a primordial forest, with a sort of pre-linguistic logic guiding the action. In contrast to the star-powered one-hander endurance dramas Gravity or All Is Lost, relative unknown Khan Chittenden plays the everyman lead Jim with the one-note quality of a wide-eyed, slack-jawed observer. He’s later joined by a Chinese soldier, Seng (Taiwanese matinee idol Mo Tzu-Yi), also thinly drawn.
In lieu of fleshed-out characters, the focus turns to the wondrous fantasy setting. DP Stefan Duscio conjures a lavish visual world in a style evocative of Emmanuel Lubezki’s work for Terrence Malick. Equally crucial is the finely calibrated sound design, with mixers Nic Buchanan and Rodney Lowe layering the raw cacophony of a rain forest with the distant thunder of war. With a bare-bones plot, almost no dialogue, a tiny cast, and minimal on-screen violence, this debut feature from Australian Aaron Wilson lays claims to an epic grandeur of a very different kind than its band of genre brothers—more Odyssey than Iliad.