Although Scattered, Listening Is Ambitious And Engaging Sci-Fi

Listening - Artie Ahr -

Artie Ahr as “Ryan” in LISTENING. Photo Courtesy of Young Medium.

Despite a choppy delivery, the ambitious debut vision of writer/director Khalil Sullins paired with an ensemble cast of mindful talent brings intrigue, innovation and raw drama to life in the hypnotic science fiction thriller “Listening.”

For years, we have tried to harness the power of the human mind… and failed. Now, one breakthrough will change everything. Beyond technology. Beyond humanity. Beyond control.

Writer/Director Khalil Sullins simulates minds with his felicitous feature film debut of the uniquely engaging Sci-Fi thriller “Listening.” A thought provoking and visually pioneering addition to the annals of cerebral science fiction films, “Listening” captures the double edged essence of a fledgling one-way mind reading breakthrough turned government mind control product. It visually achieves a big budget feel on a smaller budget and the core characters are perfectly flawed, making the entire experience much more interesting. David (Thomas Stroppel) his associate Ryan (Artie Ahr) are making strides with their five-finger discounted hodgepodge of a garage assembly, but when the beautiful Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger) joins the team the brain hacking project starts progressing more rapidly than they could have imagined, for better or for worse. As the team delves deeper into the vast power of ‘listening’ to one’s mind, so comes an increasingly grim implication of what it means for their friendship and for the future of America.

Amber Marie Bollinger as “Jordan” in LISTENING. Photo Courtesy of Young Medium.

Cinematics (Plot, Cinematography, Acting, etc.) – 4

To me, “Listening” does all the things that need to be done in a debut feature. It is ambitiously bold, unique in concept, it’s done with a meticulous attention to both dialogue and visual presentation and it’s brought to life by and ensemble of young and screen-hungry actors. When compared to the debut features of the some of the visionary directors of our time (Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, etc.) “Listening” presents a similar independent tone with an aspiring Hollywood-esque delivery. Sullins captures a portrait of the rapidly accessing technological of the new generation and that technology’s impact, either positive or negative, both domestically and globally.


Check out FilmFad’s exclusive interview with LISTENING writer/Director Khalil Sullins.


The film does suffer a bit with choppiness. There were a few great character arcs that were touched upon but never pursued, leaving the overall presentation a bit shallow.


The ensemble cast delivers a textured performance bringing a sense of realism and anguish to the film through both their physicality and dialogue. Thomas Stroppel’s David and Artie Ahr’s Ryan are a well-balanced odd-couple. While at times a bit forced, the interaction between the Ryan and David is both believable, but also mildly relatable. The cast is really illuminated by Amber Marie Bollinger’s performance as Jordan. Bollinger is really the standout, delivering an emotional diversity as well as a sensual dramatic quality that added to the suspenseful ambiguity of the characters complex relationship.


Although predominantly a serious hard science fiction film, “Listening” has a few comedic jewels sparsely inserted throughout. One notable comedic exchange came at a relatively ambiguous part of the film, where Steve Hanks’ Agent Matthews broke the rocky demeanor of his stoic and hawkish government-man character. Although very amusing, I am not sure if the scene helped move the story along, and perhaps may have taken a bit of the serious tone away at the wrong moment.



Doug Mattingly as “Test Subject” in LISTENING. Photo Courtesy of Young Medium.

Entertainment Value – 3.5

Although it’s no new concept, the ‘Flicker 3D’ method used to present the ‘Mind-Link’ scenes was aesthetically appealing and 100% befitting of the scene-changing illusion. The innovative effects technology coupled with the vastly diverse locations in the film, from Cambodia to California to Washington D.C., made for an all around visually mesmerizing hour and a half.


“Listening” pulls off a big-budget Hollywood feel on a smaller Indie budget, while still maintaining the integrity of the off-beat concept and dialogue. Although far from perfect, “Listening” manages to capture attention and makes me ponder what unique and lovingly-crafted projects will the budding writer/director Khalil Sullins get involved with next.


ReWatchability – 3

“Listening” has enough nuance packed in its 100 minutes of runtime, for audiences to be able to come back again. I feel like the movie needs to be seen at least twice – Once to enjoy the initial appeal of the unique concept and aesthetically pleasing visual effects and the second time to capture the depth of detail incorporated into the film.


Watch the official trailer for “Listening” below.


LISTENING is presented by Young Medium.

Writer: Khalil Sullins

Director: Khalil Sullins

Cast: Thomas Stroppel, Artie Ahr, Amber Marie Bollinger, Christine Haeberman and Steve Hanks

MPAA Rating: Unrated

Runtime: 100 Minutes

In Theaters and On-Demand on September 11, 2015 | iTunes Pre-order link

In the category of hard sci-fi thriller, I give “Listening” 3.5 out of 5 brains.

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  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability


On one hand, "Listening" is an ambitious debut attempt on behalf of Khalil Sullins and presents a new and complex core concept. On the other hand, the film's eagerness leaves the story a bit sparse and choppy. Overall, this is in league with other firsts by great filmmakers and definitely aesthetically pleasing as well as with sound plot. I would recommend this to any hard sci-fi lover or true indie advocate, but if you're looking for a polished hollywood product... "Listening" may not be the right thought.




Author: Pooya

Since his wee lad-dom, Pooya has been a sommelier of cinema. It was likely some acting bug, fallen from the dust riddled ruby curtains of an enchanted old stage that did it. Those cinematic scarabs must have burrowed deep into his brain, irreversibly altering his mind, turning the poor boy down a dismal path.From his earliest years the strange boy would aimlessly wander the aisles of countless video rental stores, amassing his trivial knowledge with vigor. These actions befuddled the boy’s parents, who still would lovingly oblige his unusual attraction to the motion picture. Often seeking refuge in the cushioned seating of his local movie theater, the odd adolescent would immerse himself in the scripted and effects riddled realities unfolding on the screen before him. During his collegiate years, he was twice spotted on stage performing bizarre theatrical rituals before awe-struck audiences. When he departed from academia, he left behind his youth in exchange for a labor routine, but the strange young man never lost his long-cultivated love of film.Recently, Pooya was approached by to join their budding team of entertainment bloggers. After hours of coaxing and an undisclosed number of honey jars, he accepted their offer. Finally he had come full circle. Finally, at, he was home.

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