In November of 2009, John Edward Jones died in Nutty Putty Cave in Utah. Jones was trapped 150 feet underground at an angle where he was almost completely upside down and for 28 hours, he fought to stay alive while brave men and women tried every possible way to save him. Unfortunately, his body could not be freed and Nutty Putty Cave shut down for good, becoming the burial site for Jones. Inspired by this young man’s story, film director Isaac Halasima created the film The Last Descent to capture and share the amazing story of Jones and the lives he touched both in life and in death.
While The Last Descent is inspired by the true events that took place that day, Halasima did an exquisite job in depicting Jones’ story through film and what he believed happened that tragic day. For starters, how the story was written and how it was executed in the film will most certainly keep viewers’ attention throughout its entirety. Unlike other movies inspired by true events where directors will try to tell the viewers everything about the characters within the first few minutes, Halasima bides his time and gives information about Jones’ life little by little as the film progresses. This allows viewers to learn about Jones as one would learn about a new friend. There are small snippets of what is happening on the outside world, mainly of what the rescuers are planning to do to save Jones, but rather than mainly focusing on what everyone else was trying to do, Halasima focused mainly on the conversation between Jones and Aaron.
The actors are most certainly to be commended for bringing the characters to life. There were not many actors in the film, which gave Halasima less people to worry about directing so he could focus more on the few main characters. Chadwick Hopson played John Jones and Alexis Johnson played his wife, Emily. The two had wonderful chemistry and made their relationship for the viewers enjoyable to watch. When Hopson and Johnson were not in scenes together, they stood very well on their own. Another role to be commended is Landon Henneman who played Aaron. Henneman did an amazing job playing the role of a true hero: one who swore he would do everything in his power to try to save Jones and did so by staying with him until the very end, nearly losing his own life in the process.
The camera work and music are also to be praised in this film. For a film that takes place mostly underground in a dark cave, there is still enough light for viewers to see what is happening. The angles give a feeling of how narrow the cave was and how uncomfortable and painful it must have been for Jones while he was trapped, almost even giving a claustrophobic feel to the viewers. At certain points, viewers will notice the camera going in and out of focus. This gives an excellent point of view shot of what Jones must have been going through as the hours dragged on. There is also actual news footage from the day the event occurred mixed in with what Halasima filmed. For the music, composers Matt Cropper and Kalai created pieces that were calm and sad, very fitting for such a story. The piano and strings are dominant instruments in each of the orchestral pieces, giving the already tragic story a tragically beautiful feel.
Writing stories inspired by true events and showing them to the world through books and movies can be tricky for the writers, most likely, were not there. They are writing what they believed to have happened and what they learned actually happened through study and interviews. Halasima was inspired to tell a story about a tragic event that happened at Thanksgiving in 2009 to a man who was taken from his family and friends well before his time and succeeded in inspiring others through his story. “What good is life if you’re waiting to die?” Jones said this to Aaron before he died in the film. No one knows when his or her time will come, but it is what one does with his or her time on this Earth that truly counts -the time spent with loved ones, admiring the small and simple things in life. The Last Descent expresses an exquisite story inspired by true events and one that may make people remember what is most important in life before that life is gone.