Directed By: Gabe Torres
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh, JR Bourne, Tom Berenger
No matter what your movie is about, rationality is key, relative to the world you’re in. On the other hand, maintaining a sensible story doesn’t lead to a definitive divide between good and bad films. If you can keep just about everything else in line – an intriguing plot, solid performances, a proper pace – you can undoubtedly sweep an audience up in the action and push aside the logic questions until after the credits roll. So is the case with Brake.
Jeremy (Stephen Dorff) wakes up, not knowing where he is. Did he drink too much? It’s possible. However, when Jeremy figures out he’s not only locked in the back of a trunk, but also enclosed in an unbreakable glass box, he comes to realize that this isn’t any old hangover, or even a prank gone too far. The only tools Jeremy has to figure out where he is and what’s happening to him is an old CB radio and his own keen perception.
While this review may be light on plot, the full film most certainly is not. Part of the fun of Brake is that we’re solving the mystery right along with Jeremy. It’s one thing to want to figure out what’s going on, but it’s another to be on board with Jeremy on a more emotional level. The script does break down quite a bit when it comes to peeling back Jeremy’s layers, but Dorff delivers such an honest and endearing performance, towards the tail end of the film, wanting to find out what’s happening to him is directly connected to a desperation to see him survive.
The first act of Brake, however, is solid. Jeremy is a guy trapped in a box with Saw-type torture capabilities. Even though Jeremy does manage to make an outside connection via his radio, he’s alone and it’s that solitude that not only keeps the audience close to Jeremy, but also keeps the story contained. Clearly there are some similarities between Brake and 2010’s Buried. Yes, it’s very necessary for Brake to take a different route, but when one too many external forces enter the picture, Brake, well, breaks down whereas Buried sticks with Ryan Reynolds all the way through, keeping the audience’s emotion parallel with his. Therefore, Buried has a build whereas Brake loses the claustrophobia-induced anxiety that made the first portion of the film so powerful.
While this certainly stems from script issues, it’s also related to unsuccessful supporting roles, either due to bad performances or the filmmakers dropping the ball. The majority of these characters only come in via voice work and teeter upon melodrama. In terms of the faces we do see, it’s clear that director Gabe Torres and his team made the material in the trunk principally important, because when we cut to a shot of another person, the quality drops noticeably. Perhaps this speaks to Torres’ ability as a director, but if you’re not going to give that same level of attention to every single portion of your film, why try at all?
Then again, also speaking to Torres’ talent, he does deliver a feature film with an incredible momentum and power to pull you in, despite a slew of plot holes. The most glaring issue is a countdown clock that’s built into Jeremy’s glass case. Sometimes, when the numbers wind down, something will happen, but then there also seems to be quite a few instances where nothing happens at all and the timer simply resets. There are a number of other believability issues that come into play, which are tough to discuss without spoiling any of the film, but all generally relate to the growing out of control, to the point at which it’s impossible to retain any rationality.
On the other hand, who needs rationality when you’ve got a compelling film? From the moment Brake begins, it sucks you right in and never lets go courtesy of a powerful core concept – a guy’s trapped in a box. Between that simple central issue and Dorff’s rock solid performance, you won’t even be able to let your mind wander in the slightest before discovering the truth. It can be quite ludicrous at times, but if you’re looking for an exhilarating experience, Brake’s a great option.