(YouTube) You may be thinking: wait, METAL GEAR SOLID 3 (MGS3 from here on out)? That’s a video game! I’ve played it! It’s not a film!

Surprise! METAL GEAR auteur Hideo Kojima released a three-and-a-half-hour non-interactive version of MSG3 as part of the METAL GEAR SOLID 3: EXISTENCE (MGS:E) limited edition version of MGS3. While Kojima insists that it isn’t a film — partially because I suppose folks have assumed he’s always wanted his games to be films instead of games, due to the extraordinarily lengthy cut-scenes he utilizes — but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s a film. Nowadays, folks don’t hesitate to discuss the influence of video game camera and storytelling techniques on films — I had the gall to do so when I wrote about ENTER THE VOID a few months back — but MGS3:E was one of the first non-full-motion video games that I can think of where the creator tried to take their game, repurpose it, and sell it as non-interactive entertainment.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the end result is extremely clumsy[ 12/9/20, 5:16 AM Almost verbatim what I said ~14 years ago.]. A lot of that boils down to the fact that Kojima has historically been an aspirational-but-graceless storyteller (see: MGS1 & MGS2) often riffing off of works he likes instead of weaving something new. For what it’s worth, it feels like with MGS3, Kojima finally started figuring out how to write proper character arcs, and even managed to pen a heartfelt ending, but if you rob the view of the interactive efforts it took to get from point A to point B, well, you end up with a lot of dull flailing.

That said, it’s still a noteworthy attempt, and has helped mold his current storytelling sensibilities into something more subtle and interesting via DEATH STRANDING. (Well, subtle for Kojima.) While it’s a narrative best experienced with the interactive core it was built for, this effort is still a fascinating curio.

If you’d like to read more about METAL GEAR SOLID 3: EXISTENCE, check out my initial write-up from waaaay too years ago.

The full ‘film’ can be viewed at:

PATRIOT (2015-2018)

(Prime) I think it’s fair to say that J.J. Abrams has probably had the biggest impact on serialized dramatic TV within the past 20 years. From ALIAS to LOST to FRINGE, everything boils down to conflict via -family dysfunction-, a conceit usually trotted out in films and not in TV because it’s traditionally been considered too soapy.

While PATRIOT isn’t one of the first spy shows to riff off of the spy family template of what Abrams wrought via ALIAS (if you haven’t seen ALIAS, you can start and end with its second season), it’s by far one of the most inventive. It’s a crackerjack of a thriller that, while its machinations are intentionally convoluted, the character work is the core of the show, and is a simply soulful as can be.

PATRIOT features John Tavner (Michael Dormer) as an unofficial CIA operative who operates under Tom Tavner, John father’s (the incomparable Terry O’Quinn), supervision. Occasionally John’s brother and Texas Congressman (Michael Chernus) gets roped in to John’s missions, simply to balance him out. While Tom realizes the stress he’s putting his son under, he feels it’s for the best of the nation (and also you sense that he revels in the control he has over his children) but he doesn’t quite realize just how frayed and worn down John is. To cope with matters, John sings about his missions Dylan-style on the street and in open-mic nights.

Yes, it’s a spy show and yes there are a lot of broken bones and MacGuffins changing hands, but those details matter as much to the audience as they do to John , which is to say: they don’t except for a means to an end-scene. It’s really about John’s dissonance and his breaking from reality, how the responsibilities his father piles onto him are breaking his humanity.

There’s an early scene in S01E08 (-L’Affaire Contre John Lakeman-, ~7:45-11:40) that I find an emblematic example of the show: John sits in the middle of a construction site as everyone involved in his life walk through, peppering him with expectations and disappointed laments while he sits there, framed by a concrete pipe, numb to their words. It’s one shot, camera static, as they slowly push in, the frame tightening on John’s back, slightly coiling the tension which builds, then whimpers away.

The first season of PATRIOT toys a lot with dialogue and very dry editing, but the second season features an explosion of virtuoso camera techniques and visuals. Sadly, a third season wasn’t meant to be, but I can only imagine the new ground it would have broken.