by Kirk Honeycutt Never less than gripping and putting the Oscar-winning Adrien Brody through a physical wringer, "Wrecked" is man-against-the-wilderness survival picture.
If Adrien Brody’s agent has been campaigning for more screen time for this client, then he hit the jackpot with Wrecked, a man-against-the-wilderness survival picture where the actor is in nearly every shot. Never less than gripping and putting the Oscar-winning actor through a physical wringer from eating worms and insects to being swept down a raging river, the movie comes up a bit flat with a perfunctory ending where something more feral or dramatic is needed. Nevertheless, the 91-minute film builds tension steadily and despite the single set -- if you can think of the wilderness as a single set -- it is visually inventive so the man’s ordeal never grows tedious.
The film plays best in a darkened cinema where the audience, like the hero, has no escape. But Wrecked will probably reach a wider audience with in-home viewings.
Christopher Dodd’s screenplay situates its protagonist in grave peril from the opening shots. A man (Brody) slowly regains consciousness in a wrecked car in a forest at the bottom a sloping cliff. His right leg is trapped beneath the crumpled dashboard, the door is jammed and pain from possible fractures and a concussion shoots through his body.
With inarticulate groans, screams and moans, the man struggles unsuccessfully to free himself. Director Michael Greenspan and cinematographer James Liston shoot their immobile protagonist from many angles -- in the busted side mirror, through a shattered windshield, in close-ups and longer shots of the wrecked vehicle -- as his frustration and fear intensifies.
His companions in the vehicle -- one has been thrown clear -- are all dead. Retrieving the ID of one, he learns his name. "Are we friends, George?” he asks the corpse.
Yes, on top of everything the survivor suffers from amnesia. The problem of identity compounds the more immediate problem of survival.
Then the movie takes a new tact. A young woman (Caroline Dhavernas), apparently out for a hike, turns up. Rescue seems immanent. She offers water and dry food to the trapped man and then vanishes. She continues to appear throughout his ordeal, clearly a figment of his imagination taunting him, yet possibly a clue at least to his past.
When he finally does free himself, more clues arrive that point to a dark past. Via the car radio -- which first plays Tiny Tim’s rendition of Tip Toe Through the Tulips! -- he learns authorities may consider him "armed and dangerous." He discovers a weapon that confirms at least one of those possibilities.
He finds stacks of cash from an apparent bank robbery but all this is good for in the wilderness is fuel to start a fire. More unreliable visions occur although a dog that unaccountably joins him may be real. Certainly that hungry mountain lion is.
The man creates a splint for his leg and is at last mobile, if crawling around can be considered mobile. But the search for water and food creates more dangers. Finally, he discovers a cell phone but can’t get any service.
The film then is a journey of survival with Brody having only his face and the odd comments to the dog to communicate the man’s mental state to an audience. It’s a bravado performance that tests the mettle of the actor just as the forest tests his character’s. The remote locations on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, certainly present a beautiful yet hostile environment for this test.
At the end of the day, however, the movie is more of a stunt than an epic story of survival. It’s not as existential as, say, Jack London’s story To Build a Fire and last year’s 127 Hours or as visceral as the 1971 Richard Harris-starrer, Man in the Wilderness. It’s more akin to the Saw horror series or Buried, where you fling a character or characters into an impossible situation and watch the struggle. This becomes even more evident in a final "reveal,” where the hero regains his memory and cell service at virtually the same moment for a surprisingly pat ending.
Production value on the Canadian production are terrific for what looks like a difficult and at times arduous shoot for everyone involved. Cudos to composer Michael Brook for keeping the score minimal yet effective.
Opens: IFC Midnight (April 1 NY, April 8 LA)
Production: Independent Edge Productions in association with Telefilm Canada
Cast: Adrien Brody, Caroline Dhavernas
Director: Michael Greenspan
Screenwriter: Christopher Dodd
Producer: Kyle Mann
Director of photography: James Liston
Production designer: Michael Wong
Music: Michael Brook
Costume designer: Andrea Desroche
Editor: Wiebke von Carolsfeld
Rated R, 91 minutessource