The Bottom Line
This taut and effective thriller produces maximum suspense with a minimum of means.
Neil Hopkins, Brea Grant
William Dickerson's claustrophobic thriller concerns a man trapped in his car buried under a mudslide.
Claustrophobics would be advised to steer clear of William Dickerson's micro-budgeted debut feature set almost entirely inside a car buried under a mudslide.
The latest in a seemingly burgeoning mini-genre that includes such recent similarly themed efforts as Wrecked and Buried (starring Adrien Brody and Ryan Reynolds respectively), Detour is a tautly efficient thriller that fully succeeds in making the viewer identify with its hapless protagonist's desperate plight.
Not wasting any time with a lengthy plot set-up, the film begins with thirty something ad executive Jackson (Neil Hopkins, of ABC's Lost) waking up in his SUV, which is completely covered in mud. A subsequent flashback reveals that his car was swallowed up by a mudslide on the coastal California highway on which he was headed to an important business meeting.
Possessing only a half-bottle of water and little food, Jackson quickly begins to realize the seriousness of his situation, as air becomes increasingly limited and the car's sunroof threatens to collapse under the mud's oppressive weight. Alternating between frantic desperation and steely resolve, he attempts to figure out ways to rescue himself using whatever materials he has access to, MacGyver style.
Alleviating the viewer's feelings of being trapped, if not the character's, are flashbacks to his troubled domestic life with his spouse (Brea Grant), seen as videos on his phone, that reveal him to be something of a jerk.
Running a taut 87 minutes, the film makes Jackson's inventive survival attempts fully credible, with director/co-screenwriter Dickerson displaying a sure hand in conveying the precise physical details with a convincing realism.
Giving a virtually solo performance in which he seems to go through all five of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' stages of grief, Hopkins well handles the role's extensive emotional and physical demands, especially in the harrowing climactic sequence that will leave few viewers unshaken.
Opens March 29 (Gravitas Ventures)
Production: Fishbowl Films, Level 1 Entertainment
Cast: Neil Hopkins, Brea Grant, John Forest, Ptolemy Slocum Deb Snyder
Director: William Dickerson
Screenwriters: William Dickerson, Dwight Moody
Producers: Diane Becker, Carrie LeGrand, Melanie Miller
Executive producers: Luc Des Groseillers, Erin Egan, Kevin Foley, Edward Milstein, Bill Todman Jr.
Director of photography: Robert Kraetsch
Editor: Kirk M. Morri
Production designer: Elizabeth Van Dam
Costume designer: Cathryn Coldiron
Composer: Henning Lohner
Not rated, 86 min.