Paul Carpenter is an intern at a mysterious London firm with unconventional employers, including a CEO who wants to disrupt the ancient magical world with modern corporate practices.
Directors: Jeffrey Walker
Writers: Leon Ford, Tom Hold (based on the novel by)
Cinematography: Donald McAlpine
Editing: Geoff Lamb
Music: Benjamin Speed
Cast: Patrick Gibson, Sophie Wilde, Christoph Waltz, Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Damon Herriman, Chris Pang, Jessica De Gouw, Rachel House
I’m not too sure how The Portable Door, based on the book of the same name by UK author Tom Holt with production company The Jim Henson Company abroad, and Christoph Waltz signed as a supporting actor managed to end up an Australian film, filmed on the Gold Coast with an Australian director — but this is a new Stan Original Film. Well, the answer to all of that is “because of COVID,” but I think this is a pretty big deal, and when I clicked play on The Portable Door, I hoped we had done well with this one. Fortunately, in this case, we have, and there’s plenty to love here.
The film introduces us to Paul Carpenter (Patrick Gibson), down on his luck and on the way to an overcrowded coffee job interview in London, a dog steals his scarf, his shoelace becomes untied, and a whole bunch of other weird coincidences lead him inside a building where Sophie (Sophie Wilde) is awaiting a job interview. The team calls in Paul, however, even though he has no idea about this interview nor what he’s supposed to be interviewing for in front of an angry-looking Dennis Tanner (Sam Neill) and a calm Humphrey Wells (Christoph Waltz). Even as he stumbles his way through the interview, Paul manages to score the job, getting a letter in the mail that night telling him to start tomorrow morning: even though he still has no idea what the company, J.W Wells & Co do, and what his position will be. Nonetheless, he needs the money, so of course, he accepts.
There’s something to discovering what J.W Wells & Co do as Paul does in the film, so I’ll let you figure that out yourself. However, the film does a great job of ensuring you’re aware it’s definitely not normal. There’s a magical sensation to everything going on in Paul’s life the moment the dog steals his scarf from the receptionist at the building he’s been employed at, looking him oddly as he climbs the stairs occupied by Sam Neil’s, Dennis Tanner. The music by Benjamin Speed is mysterious, and the editing from Geoff Lamb, in combination with director Jeffrey Walker delivers a fantastical element to each frame. There’s also an odd sensation of not knowing when what year the film is set. The materials and tech used in the company’s building are a mixture of fax machines and computers, while Paul clearly has a mobile phone. It makes the whole movie feel even more out of time, in a good way.
Paul Carpenter, alongside the film debut of Sophie Wilde, makes a great young pairing, but Christoph Waltz, and especially Sam Neill, steal the scene every time they’re on-screen. Neil, in particular, must have had a lot of fun with The Portable Door playing a curmudgeonly second-in-charge who wants nothing to do with Paul and only puts up with his hiring as Humphrey (Waltz) see’s something in him that no one else can.
The Portable Door fills you with warm family-film magic I haven’t seen in years. The fantasy world introduced in this film is well worth adventuring into yourself, with plenty of secrets to discover.