Thomas Wheeler’s Order 27 is an alternative history thriller that doubles as a comedy. Exploring the alternative of an actual nuclear incident that could have happened but never did, Order 27 takes fifteen minutes to wonder, What if it did?
The narrative framing uses the indolent boss and new intern duo, set in a Siberian communications bunker. Where Officer Krovolov (Jack Waldouck) lounges with the intention of moving as few muscles as possible, Vlad (Stan Morgan) is driven, but wet behind the ears and therefore dependent on Krovolov.
What begins as a routine day for Krovolov devolves into a global nightmare that interferes with his nap but does allow him to recite articles as if in a rap battle. Moscow has mistaken cloud cover for nuclear missiles from the USA. Krovolov is ordered to execute Order 27 in retaliation: launch five intercontinental ballistic missiles addressed to Washington. Vlad is prompt and competent. By the time the mistake is discovered, the missiles are already on their way.
Much of the film’s tone derives from the editing. Quick cuts between Krovolov, Vlad and the elaborate computer setup detailing everyone’s doom, disarm the tension into comedy. Persistent beeping on the layered sound design emphasizes the urgency and pace of the narrative. Balanced with the far lighter background score, the film remains from fully leaning into its thriller aspect. Of course, with Krovolov in charge, one does not run the danger of becoming too serious. The threat of worldwide destruction is merely an abstraction. It is Krovolov’s desire to save his neck that is the concrete here and now of it, and the primary driving force behind the narrative. For better or worse, his Washington counterpart has no sympathy and an abundance of guileful unreliability.
Order 27 executes its own directives efficiently. The humour rivals the thrill. The backend of history at its lower rungs gets the centre stage for fifteen minutes and creates entertaining, world-ending chaos. But as Krovolov keeps reminding, it is a great learning experience for Vlad.
Watch Order 27 Short Film
Order 27: Two Men in the eye of Nuclear Armageddon