• Country: United Kingdom
  • Initial release: November 2011
  • Film Director: John Maclean
  • Running Time: 13 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 7.3

In 2011, director John Maclean brought us the gripping crime short film “Pitch Black Heist.” This black and white masterpiece takes us into the world of professional safe crackers, Liam and Michael, as they embark on a daring heist in a London office rigged with a light sensitive alarm system. With its unique narrative structure and cinematic influences, “Pitch Black Heist” captivates viewers from start to finish.

Narrative Structure

“Pitch Black Heist” follows the story of Liam and Michael, two skilled robbers hired to crack a safe in a London office. The catch? The office is guarded by a light sensitive alarm system, forcing the duo to carry out the entire operation in complete darkness. The film begins with the characters meticulously planning the heist and ends with a shot of a desolate London street after Michael abandons Liam. Throughout the film, tension builds as secrets are revealed and the heist takes an unexpected turn.

Cinematic Influences

The cinematography of “Pitch Black Heist” is captivating and reflects the film’s title and concept. Shot entirely in black and white, the visuals add a sense of noir and mystery to the story. The camera work in the film is notable, with a focus on Michael, hinting at his importance in the unfolding events. This is evident in the opening scene where the camera remains static on Michael while Liam walks into the shot. The use of shot, reverse shot during casual conversations, such as when the characters smoke or engage in an arm wrestle, slows down the pace and adds depth to the film.

One of the standout elements of “Pitch Black Heist” is the absence of a non-diegetic score throughout most of the film. This creates a sense of unease and heightens the suspense as the characters navigate the dark office. The only instances of music are during the opening and closing sequences, which help to build atmosphere. Additionally, the use of a hidden cut to black during the safe-cracking scene adds to the intensity and leaves the audience on the edge of their seats.

Characters and Performances

The performances in “Pitch Black Heist” are naturalistic and engrossing. Interestingly, the characters’ names, Liam and Michael, are the same as the actors who portray them, Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender, respectively. This lends an authenticity to their portrayals and adds to the overall realism of the film. Liam’s character is presented as less competent and unaware of Michael’s ulterior motives, while Michael is portrayed as cold-hearted and focused on the heist.

Setting and Atmosphere

Set in modern-day London, “Pitch Black Heist” captures the gritty atmosphere of the city. The unnamed location adds to the sense of mystery and allows the audience to focus on the characters and their actions. The use of chiaroscuro lighting, with its stark contrast between light and dark, enhances the noir aesthetic and adds to the tension and suspense of the film. The choice to shoot the film in black and white further immerses viewers in the dark and dangerous world of the heist.


“Pitch Black Heist” is a BAFTA-winning crime short that showcases the talent of director John Maclean and actors Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender. With its unique narrative structure, cinematic influences, and captivating performances, the film takes viewers on a thrilling journey into the world of professional safe crackers. The black and white visuals and atmospheric setting add to the overall appeal and make “Pitch Black Heist” a must-watch for fans of crime dramas.

1 Film Review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • The short film in “Pitch Black Heist” are naturalistic and immersing. Strangely, the characters’ names, Liam and Michael, are equivalent to the entertainers who depict them, Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender, individually. This loans a genuineness to their depictions and adds to the general authenticity of the film. Liam’s personality is introduced as less equipped and ignorant about Michael’s ulterior intentions, while Michael is depicted as merciless and zeroed in on the heist.