Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

"Brake is an undying sequence of storytelling gimmicks."

Secret Service Agent Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) is stuck in a perspex coffin, with no memory of how he got there or more importantly why he's trapped. The box seems to be inside a car boot, rigged up to a speakerphone under the control of his captors, and with a short-range HAM radio. The only light is that of a blood-red digital clock counting down.

Similarly, the plot unfolds with the precision of a Swiss screenwriter's watch, and reuses many tired tropes - even Dorff's central performance could easily be swapped in and out for Jack Bauer from 24. As in 24, the clock keeps ticking, and as each explicit deadline expires, one can almost imagine screenwriter Gabe Torres reaching for yet another Inciting Incident fold to the plot. The captors slowly reveal themselves and demand to know important National Security secrets.

Copy picture

Brake is an undying sequence of storytelling gimmicks. The overarching plot is somewhat interesting, with a healthy 9/11 stream of paranoia, but the mechanistic drip-feed manipulation drives it off the road. It gets better - gathering pace quickly towards the end - and wraps up before becoming tiresome, but spoils the finale with several cheap trick reveals.

I know it's lazy film criticism - so shoot me - but comparisons are inevitably going to be made to Buried, a Sundance 2010 breakout hit about an Iraq privateer being buried alive for ransom. Brake doesn't compare terribly well.

The photography is solid - we spend almost the entire film within the translucent vessel, and the visual jiggerypokery used to enliven the single set works well. The abstract terrorism plot is far less immediate and terrifying than the horrifying nightmare of slowly suffocating or being buried alive. Ultimately, the characterisation should be stronger if the viewer can't swiftly and implicitly internalise the terrible situation. Brake is a screenwriter's exercise instead of a cohesive story.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2012
Share this with others on...
Brake packshot
A secret service agent wakes up trapped inside a perspex coffin in the boot of a car.
Amazon link


EIFF 2012

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Vanishing