Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: March 23, 2012
Directed by: Gabe Torres
Stars: 2 out of 5
At first glance, “Brake” and the 2010 Ryan Reynolds vehicle “Buried” may seem similar. The comparison is not totally unfounded, since both movies feature a man trapped in a box, who has to figure out why he is there and how to get out before he dies. That, however, is where the similarities end.
In “Brake,” Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) is the man trapped in a box, which is made of plexiglass and is in a speeding car. Inside of the box is a CB radio, which was left there so that the people who abducted him can communicate with him. There is also an ominous red timer counting down the minutes.
When Reins wakes up, he has no idea how he got into the box or why. He can only guess that it has something to do with the fact that he is a special agent in the Secret Service, which protects the president and many other politicians. He is very good at his job and takes it seriously. Since he is so good, he is one of the few special agents who knows the location of a top-secret bunker that would house the President in case of nuclear war or other danger.
The people who have imprisoned Reins know that he is privy to this big secret, and that is why they have kidnapped him. When he wakes up, all he sees is the CB radio and a somewhat blinding light, flashing as if to intimidate him. There is also a small circle near the top of the box that can only be accessed from the outside.
Eventually, someone speaks on the CB radio and tells him that he will die if he does not give up the location of the bunker. The timer starts counting down from four minutes. Reins is a man of honor and doesn’t give up the secret. Instead, he watches the timer as it counts down. When it reaches zero, nothing happens.
This is the most maddening part of an otherwise good movie. The timer is placed there for dramatic effect, but it is overused. After the countdown ends, it is reset for four minutes again, and a new demand for the same information is made. The stakes do get higher at the end of a few of the countdowns. The timer could have been used in a way that would have heightened the dramatic effect.
After realizing that Reins is holding steady to the oath he took when he became a special agent, the kidnappers begin to torture him. They unleash a swarm of bees into the box through the small hole that Reins noted when he first woke up. Later, he gets access to a cell phone where he gets a frantic call from his wife Molly (Chyler Leigh), who may or may not be another kidnapping victim.
The mysterious voice on the other end of the CB radio becomes increasingly frustrated with Reins, who seems ready to let his wife and other special agents die rather than give up his secret. At one point, the box is flooded with water in an attempt to scare him into divulging the location of the bunker. Reins still won’t budge. You want to root for the good guy, but at this point, most people would have cracked. The audience might wonder if Reins could be a superhero.
The script by Timothy Mannion ramps up the suspense and has an ending that most viewers will not see coming. It is quite a surprise and helps to relieve the tension that was built up over the 92 minutes of the movie. Director Gabe Torres does a fantastic job of filming the movie from the point of view of Reins. This makes the audience feel as if they are trapped in the box along with him. Even viewers who do not have claustrophobia may become uncomfortable, which means that the director has done his job well.
Stephen Dorff gives an excellent performance as Reins. He spends a lot of his time in this tiny box wiping away sweat and yelling, yet somehow he makes the audience feel his growing anxiety. His facial expressions and cramped body language do a lot of the talking for him, letting him show a whole new side to his acting that hasn’t been seen before.