Film Review: 'Detour'

A moderately tense but also somewhat monotonous and overstretched exercise in claustrophobic suspense

A California man struggles to survive after his car is swept off the road and submerged by a mudslide in “Detour,” a moderately tense but also somewhat monotonous and overstretched exercise in claustrophobic suspense that doesn’t compare well to similar efforts like “Buried” and “127 Hours.” Opening in 10 theatrical markets March 29, director/co-scenarist William Dickerson’s first feature is likely to find significantly more viewers via its simultaneous VOD release.

Advertising professional Jackson (Neil Hopkins, best known for “Lost”) awakens dazed and initially uncomprehending in his vehicle, entirely sealed in by soil. It takes him a while to recall (and the film much longer to briefly depict) that he was driving along a hilly, little-traveled SoCal road, ominously just past a “rock slide” sign, when a tidal wave of earth hit, presumably sweeping car and driver over an embankment, then burying them deep and well out of sight.

As hours pass with no sign of rescue, Jackson prays, watches iPhone videos of his happy domestic life with g.f. Laurie (Brea Grant), records messages to her (and their unborn child), and tries various means of reaching the surface or at least getting some sign of his plight up there. Some of these efforts only bring more harm, though, while the car periodically groans and sinks further info the mire, mud leaking in from various gaps.

The hard-working Hopkins is fine, but his character isn’t especially interesting, and there’s some obvious actor riffing to pad things out. Progress does get more intense as the situation grows even grimmer in the last stretch, and the ending isn’t the one you might expect. But the screenplay lacks the complex narrative intrigue of “Buried’s” coffin-trapped hostage crisis as well as the directorial flash Danny Boyle brought to hiker’s nightmare “127 Hours” – elements that really leavened viewer exhaustion within similarly claustrophobic situations. The result is fairly resourceful in imagining and depiction, but not entirely compelling. Tech and design aspects are solid.

Detour

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 28, 2013. Running time: 86 MIN.

A Gravitas Ventures release of a Gravitas Ventures and Level 1 Entertainment presentation in association with Main Sequence of a Fishbowl Films and Todman/Milstein production. Produced by Carrie LeGrand, Melanie Miller, Diane Becker. Executive producers, Bill Todman, Jr., Edward Milstein, Erin Egan, Luc des Groseillers, Jamison Goei, Kevin Foley. Co-producers, Neil Hopkins, Rachel Hoffman.

Directed by William Dickerson. Screenplay, Dickerson, Dwight Moody. Camera (color, HD), Rob Kraetsch; editor, Kirk Morri; music, Henning Lohner; production designer, Elizabeth Van Dam; art director, Michael Barton; costume designer, Kathryn Coldiron; sound, Steve Nelson, Evan Freeman; sound designer, Ethan Friedericks; re-recording mixer, Kelly Vandever; visual effects supervisor, Jamison Goei; assistant director, Paul Yates.

Cast: Neil Hopkins, Brea Grant.

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