Michael Lauter’s Talent Keyhole sports an unusual but exciting concept for a futuristic science-fiction thriller. Inside the top-secret world of MorphTek in Aurora, Colorado, defense contractor Kassandra (Kristina Luna), a working neuroscientist with incredible mental abilities, has been given clearance to be part of an extreme intelligence operation. With a dream recall device, “the morphosis,” Kassandra can recover images to find terrorists. Her abilities and gifts of innate intelligence and beauty as a scientist change the outcome of a very covert espionage situation.
But it is not long until Kassandra becomes entangled in a mystery that challenges her emotions and loyalties. Although saving a human rights activist from potential terrorists who encrypt software to damage national defense is perhaps a standard plot, writer-director Lauter gives it a bit of a sexy twist with a dose of a fear factor.
As a story, Talent Keyhole invites in to understand how Kassandra functions and creates a coup for the suspects who are part of an espionage ploy. The filmmaker covers all aspects of a believable operation, from security clearances and futuristic science capabilities of the human mind. His use of imagery and illusion, including creating very advanced technological systems and interactions, are especially vivid.
“Her abilities and gifts of innate intelligence and beauty as a scientist change the outcome of a very covert espionage situation.”
Adding to the futuristic world of espionage, escapism, and entrapment are the sets and atmosphere. Lauter successfully uses real-world locations, day-for-night camera work, infrared, and other imaging techniques to create this atmosphere. His less-is-more approach to locations and movement works exceptionally well in the overall visual concept.
As Talent Keyhole moves along, we learn that Stephan (Daustin Harvey), a human rights activist under torture, along with his girlfriend Jasmine (Janessa Ho), have committed terrorist acts involving Russia and China’s governments. But now, they have to search for Jasmine. This subplot reveals an even deeper purpose to what the filmmaker has in mind. Assisting in Kassandra’s case is a control research volunteer who witnessed a terrorist attack, Rachel (Karli Isabella Stunkel). She becomes an integral part of a more elaborate scheme. Stephan and Rachel are both on the run with Kassandra and are followed and chased by Gresham (Jeremy Barnes), a CIA agent and one of Kassandra’s bosses.
While there’s a continuous unfolding of events and intel throughout, the sex appeal prominent in all the female characters becomes a bit worn and tacky. In fact, it boards on bizarre. In addition, the acting and dialogue are not as intuitive, coming across as simple and somewhat trite. However, the overall mystery, which involves Stephan, Jasmine, and others, is appealing, although a bit confusing at times because of the intricate and detailed operation names and details.
Talent Keyhole has the makings of being a very good low-budget film thanks to its deep-rooted mystery. But due to undeveloped characters, weak acting, and some strange art direction, it falls short. Yet, the story has a soul and gives some interesting context to espionage in the modern world.