It was at 2:47 on Thursday 5th August 2020 that a team of physicists working on a secret project created an artificial black hole, a result which might eventually have been documented, peer reviewed and published through the normal channels bringing global attention to their achievement months if not years later had not the entire world become aware of the consequences only hours later as catastrophic changes swept across the planet.
With rolling blackouts taking out entire cities, emergency services are overwhelmed as they try to cope with the influx of calls through what infrastructure remains operational and direct insufficient response units to frantic callers, while on the streets mysterious objects appear, their surfaces reflective but distorting, glistening and crackling with energy, portals which draw some towards them to step through while denying others and driving them to acts of violence.
A trilogy of linked stories set around the incident, Portals comprises The Other Side directed by Liam O’Donnell and written by O’Donnell and Sebastian Bendix, Call Centre directed by Eduardo Sánchez (part one) and Gregg Hale (part two) and written by Jim Alberts and Sarah directed by Timo Tjahjanto and written by Robert Cook, the premise created by Chris White offering broad possibilities and each team takes a different approach but with the segments isolated rather than forming a coherent whole where the each enhances the other narratives.
While Adam (Neil Hopkins) awakens in a hospital following a collision with one of the portals, his wife and daughter missing and blinded in one eye, a punishment for not keeping it on the road in the first place, on the first night call centre manager Kathy (Shellye Broughton) tries to keep her team calm while conspiracy theorist Stan (Paul McCarthy-Boyington) claims foreknowledge, and in Jakarta sisters Jill and Sarah (Natasha Gott and Salvita Decorte) are trapped with an increasingly hostile mob in an underground parking garage.
Blending aspects of science fiction and horror, the portals themselves recalling the monolith of 2001, gateways full of stars to destinations unknown, the segments present different experiences of the phenomenon and raise questions but while there are indications of intelligence and intent none of the stories develop sufficiently to provide satisfying answers or present a mystery so involving that the viewer feels driven to delve deeper for clues or understanding themselves.
The Other Side potentially the most interesting, it is somewhat marred by Ptolemy Slocum’s Doctor Markonen being quite so obviously evil though also contains the most disturbing moments as Adam meets his manipulative mirror self, while predictably the longest segment Sarah has the least to offer, as does the mid-credit sequence which instead of context and clarity just repeats what has already been seen, the closing shot of dozens of portals floating through city skyscrapers teasing a potential which the film never delivers.