It’s hard to watch Gabe Torres’ single location thriller Brake without thinking of Rodrigo Cortes’ Buried. Both films take place within a single location, that of a box , and both involve the trapped protagonist trying to figure out who put them there and why.
Buried was a extremely tense and claustrophobic film which found a fantastic way of keeping audience interest in what is essentially a man lying in a box for 90 minutes. Brake is nowhere near as good as that film, suffering from leaps in logic and an overly complicated story going on outside that we’re frustratingly never fully aware of. Of course that’s part of the point since we’re supposed to be right along side Stephen Dorff’s Jeremy but that doesn’t stop it from being an occasionally annoying viewing experience.
Nevertheless Torres keeps things tense and unpredictable as the kidnappers doing everything from threatening his family (he is allowed communication via a two-way radio) to putting him through mental and physical torture to try and get the information they want. It becomes a “will he tell or won’t he tell?” game and we’re up-close-and-personal with Dorff as he struggles with that decision while dealing with everything else around him. Dorff is an interesting actor, one who is much under-appreciated and it’s an unusual role to see him take. He really gets to shine here as it is pretty much a one-man show.
The film moves along at a brisk pace, getting suitably more tense as it goes until an ending that at first seems to completely jumps the shark before setting things right with one which is weirdly satisfying in the moment even if it may not hold up the more you think about it.
As ridiculous it is at may be at times, with dialogue that’s often more than a bit clunky, Brake is nevertheless an effective enough thriller, one with a handle on tension and on making the audience care enough about the main character to want to see him survive the ordeal. But it’s no Buried.