Trapping a character in one place is a challenge for so mobile a medium as movies. Danny Boyle met it recently with kinetic frenzy, swamping 127 Hours‘ pinned protagonist with flashbacks, fantasies and videocam confessions. In Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried, Ryan Reynolds awakes in a coffin with nothing but a lighter, a cell phone, and a high-stakes kidnapping mystery to solve; the movie overcomes its formal limitations with narrative urgency. In contrast, the first 30 minutes of Wrecked, a near-dialogueless anti-thriller directed by Michael Greenspan, sport no such bourgeois trappings as excitement or exigency: a bloody Adrien Brody wakes up in a totaled car, his leg caught under the dash, his head addled with amnesia. He cries. He mutters. He moans. He has a dream—about being stuck in the same car, in the same stretch of woods.
OK, so eventually a mystery emerges for him to sort out, but its stakes don’t readily reveal themselves: there’s a dead body in the backseat, a gun under the driver’s, and—after several reels—the news over a staticky radio that Brody, his dead passenger, and another man are wanted for a bank robbery in which a teller was killed. Brody’s crisis becomes one of self-recognition: how could the nice, sympathetically vulnerable guy I am right now be wanted for such a dastardly crime?
Or, that would be his crisis if he didn’t have to deal with many more pressing problems first. Like Ryan Reynolds had to fill frames by battling a trespassing snake, so too must Brody handle a mountain lion and a forest-dwelling, rifle-wielding human scavenger, not to mention unhappy memories, ghosts, hunger, thirst, and his broken leg (even after he escapes the car, and drags himself across the forest floor for a while, he’s hardly “free.”) With a hero battling nature along with his inner demons, Wrecked lays the foundation for an existential identity crisis, then brushes it aside with a twist that answers everything and strips away any accidentally acquired depth. All that’s left is an acting exercise pushed forward by a minimalist mystery: the movie seems set entirely within a period of time that a more mainstream-minded movie would just skip over. A neat experiment, but a pointless one, too: meaninglessness proves to be the tight squeeze out of which Wrecked can’t wriggle.
Now playing at the IFC Center