Wrecked is the perfect movie for the video on demand venue, where it premiered. It’s a low rent high concept premise. Filmmakers are getting really good at these limited scenarios (127 Hours Buried and I haven’t even seen Frozen) and what a compelling actor to focus on for this journey.
A man (Adrien Brody) wakes up in a car crashed in the woods. Stuck in the passenger seat, he’s got to survive, escape and figure out who he and the dead driver and other passenger are. That’s it: guy in a car in the woods.
This is a compelling premise but these movies become more about the exercise than the story. We care more about how a filmmaker will fill 90 minutes of “stuck in a car” action than whether or not this guy survives.
Screenwriter Christopher Dodd certainly packed the story with eventful incidents. What the man can see in the rearview mirror is important. Reaching for something on the driver’s side floor is a challenge. He catches rain water to drink and grabs the backseat passenger’s coat to keep warm. He even wakes up having to pee. Dodd went there.
30 minutes into the movie the man gets the door open, but that doesn’t help much. He’s still got a leg wound to deal with. The script gives Brody a little bit of muttering and swearing to do but it never cheats by having him talk for the camera’s sake. There’s a dream sequence, a vision that keeps popping up and a dog, but the film has the balls to let the man shut up unless there’s absolutely a good reason for him to speak out loud. Even Cast Away didn’t have the balls to let Tom Hanks be quiet.
Wrecked never pads out the running time. It is the story of the man in the car in the woods. The detours only add complexity to that story, and the mystery has a good reveal and payoff. The moral of the story is: wear your seatbelt. That’s a positive message I can get behind.
Director Michael Greenspan shoots the car and the woods in skillful ways. He’s careful to show only what the man could see and keeps the camera close to him. Greenspan makes the forest look never-ending, and he probably just camped out in the same patch for a few weeks. Only the opening shots of the film, the blurry hazy flashes of the crash, feel like a cheap way to establish the movie. Spielberg wouldn’t do that. He’d show you exactly what he wants you to see. But the movie gets going and Greenspan becomes a pro. Definitely outstanding work for a first feature.