An engaging thriller down to the end, which has a take it or leave it kind of ending, depending on how much you want to look into it.
The confinement genre is on an upward trend as of late and you can add another to the list, Brake. The title of the film would have been better suited named Trunk, as the entire film takes place in a trunk of a vehicle that our hero is trapped in. Perhaps the title was going for a play on words as the villains try to “break” the protagonist to giving out national security information. Nevertheless, it remains an engaging thriller down to the end, which has a take it or leave it kind of ending, depending on how much you want to look into it.
“What is this?” Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) says as he is kicking and pounding on a glass box that he finds himself in upon waking up. Red glare from the digital clock that is counting downwards fills the box he is trapped in. Once the clock reaches zero he realizes that there is a CB radio inside the box as someone begins to talk.
That someone is Henry Shaw (JR Bourne) who seems to be in the same exact position as Jeremy is; trapped in a glass box with the exact same time left on the clock (the clock reset itself to 4:00 minutes once it reached zero). Jeremy’s first instinct is that this is because of a large gambling debt that he owes. So he asks the man on the other end of the radio if he owes money to anyone but Henry denies having any.
By this time the clock reaches zero again and Jeremy hears footsteps around him then the start of an engine. Suddenly he figures out that he is inside the trunk of a car. He notices there is a trunk release lever on the outside of the box as if to tease him how close he is to escape. There is tube from inside the vehicle to the box which he finds a post card asking where the location of Roulette is.
Over time we find out that Roulette means a location to the underground bunker where the president, vice present and other high profile people go when there is a national security threat. They call it Roulette because the location switches among several different locations on any given day. It turns out that Jeremy is a Secret Service agent that knows this critical information that only a select few know. The antagonists here try their best to get that privileged information out of him.
An obvious comparison can be made to the film Buried as it shares a very similar premise. Both start with the main character waking up inside a confined box that they have no recollection about how they got there. In Buried it was a coffin, in Brake it is a glass box. Both have access to outside communication and at some point in each film the trap space slowly fills up with something that can drown our heroes. There are so many comparisons that can be made to each other, heck, they even start with the same letter.
Over the past few years there have been a number of films that share the same claustrophobic theme you can practically start a new genre called “confinement movies”. In addition to Brake and Buried, you could also include; Phone Booth, Panic Room, Wrecked, and 127 Hours to name a few. As with any confinement movie, the lack of space literally comes with the territory, making it a challenge as a filmmaker.
Stephen Dorff gives an intense performance as the tight-lipped noble Secret Service agent. Being the on the screen for the entire film is not an easy task but he did a great job handling that responsibility. This role may not just have been Dorff’s most challenging to date, but also his best.
Brake as a whole mostly succeeds, especially up until the very end. Many people are down on the twists at the end and it is because films like Saw have us trained to look for twists beyond the obvious. But I do not believe the somewhat predictable ending completely destroys the thrilling 80 minutes before it. While this confinement picture does have it’s flaws, luckily it is not until the very end that they reveal themselves.