Jettison: a parable on the US exploitation of soldiers using time-space travel

J J Pollack, “Jettison” (2021)

A young woman, Rebka (Madison Wilson), restless and bored with life on the family farm, eagerly joins the United States Space Forces to escape the monotony of life on Earth, see the stars and have intergalactic adventures. Due to the phenomenon of time dilation caused by rapid space transportation across incredible distances measured in perhaps hundreds if not thousands of light years, Rebka and her fellow soldiers lose contact with their loved ones as friends and family back age and live out their lives in what would seem to the soldiers to be no more than a few minutes. Rebka has a baby with Corporal Mandella (Zachary T Scott) but is forced to give up the child, only a few minutes old, in order to continue serving her tour of duty. When finally that is done, Rebka returns home – only to discover that the elderly man living there on his own remembers Rebka’s child … as his grandmother!

However, it is Rebka’s realisation of the consequences of time dilation on her family and other ties with Earth, and the depression that falls upon her as a result, that make the most impact on viewers: though Rebka remains young on the outside, inwardly she ages so much so rapidly that the outer person ends up no more than a hollow shell, unable to relate to others or to express emotion. During the months of duty fighting a mystery enemy, a century passed on Earth – and Rebka does not even have the opportunity for proper rest and relaxation. Her affair with Mandella that produces her baby appears to have been conducted quickly and furtively. The birth of her child seems to force Mandella’s transfer to another military unit and Rebka never hears from him again until his ashes are sent to her.

Filmed in black-and-white to emphasise the psychological changes in Rebka and to highlight the monotony of her life in the military as being no more and no less than what she might have had to endure back on Earth had she stayed, the film makes a statement about how life in the military can rob people of so much of what they hold dear and turn them into robots. There is a message about how the military exploits young people and uses them as cannon fodder, and how that might impact on them psychologically. When their tour of duty is done, they are tossed out like garbage and expected to make their way through life and society on their own. Wilson’s minimal acting here is very powerful.

Although the film looks to have a typically shoe-string budget with very few special effects, it tells a very moving story thanks to its lead actor and the decision to film it in a minimalist black-and-white style.

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