Nightstream: Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest (2021)

Director: Mads Hedegaard

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Starring: Mads Hedegaard, Kim "Kanonarm" Købke, Michael Dyst, Carsten Tommy Lauridsen, Svavar Gunnar Gunnarson, Michael Trier, Emil Gotfredsen, Chrisstoffer Daniel

Once a popular addition to many businesses, arcade games may have lost their prevalence yet some of its players never lost their passion. Many patrons frequent Copenhagen's Bip Bip Bar to play its arcade games, including mullet-wearing grandfather Kim "Cannon Arm" Købke. His favourite game is Gyruss, which is meant to last 3-to-4 minutes per game although his record is 49-hours on a single coin. That isn't enough for Kim as, aided by his friends, he intends to conquer what he's attempted three times prior - beat the world record and play for 100-hours straight.

Potential perils are made clear through the story of arcade legend Joel West, who died in 2018 when his own marathon attempt resulted in dehydration, connective tissue inflammation, and blood poisoning. Kim finds those risks worth taking, as he wishes to make a grand accomplishment on the game he's felt connected to since first playing it in the 80s. There's a palpable history felt between this compelling pairing, as these old partners both age a bit with each further meeting.

Helping Kim are his gang of friends who support each other through thick and thin, with their shared bonds wonderfully depicted to ensure they're not just additional helpers. Attempts are made to dive into them by individually depicting their interests and hypotheses, although this focus feels larger than necessary. There's nothing wrong with taking extra time to understand who these people are, yet it's depicted in such static ways which unfortunately drags down the documentary. This is also true regarding the history of arcade games, as scenes provide a necessary context yet devotes more time than necessary to it. As such, these elements feel like padding which could've been cut for a tighter focus on Kim's journey.

Once the titular quest begins, it's enticing to see whether the goal shall be achieved. While bathroom breaks are timed to loading screens and sleep is limited to 10-minute intervals per day, this high-stakes endurance test never feels dull. It also highlights in vibrant colours what the arcade means to many people, where those who've been written off by the world can become each others heroes while engaging in personal likes without being taunted. It all equals familiar hopes of personal dreams amounting to something, as peoples attempts to leave their mark will create a life others shall remember. It's a wonderful core to this documentary, although feels lost amidst a lacking focus.

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest previously played at Nightstream