ALONE **** USA 2020 Dir: John Hyams. 98 mins
An American remake of the Swedish thriller GONE from the same screenwriter, Mattias Olsson, this stripped-down cat-and-mouse thriller treads on highly familiar ground but does so in a fashion that feels unusually authentic while sustaining the suspense from start to finish.
Split into chapters (‘The Road’, ‘The River’, ‘The Rain’), it opens with an appropriately unsettling journey through autumnal mountains. Our protagonist is Jessica (Jules Willcox), a young woman taking refuge in the wilderness following the suicide of her husband. As she tows a U-Haul trailer across the country, she is contacted by her concerned mom and dad – characters who, like almost everyone else in the movie, only appear as voices on the phone. After an altercation on the road, Jessica is met by the driver responsible for her near head-on collision. The motorist, known only as Man (Marc Menchaca, a key figure in HBO’s THE OUTSIDER) apologises for his actions, citing “one of those days” but then proceeds to follow, abduct and capture her.
Unfolding almost in real time, with exposition on the move and no aftermath once the ordeal appears to have reached its end, ALONE is a taut, scary exercise in concise genre storytelling from director John Hyams. He’s hitherto probably best known for the last two UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movies, the second of which (DAY OF RECKONING) is the kind of balls-to-the-wall, uber-violent American action pic that comes along too rarely.
While Willcox is utterly convincing as a woman at the end of her rope when we meet her – but, nonetheless, finding the will to survive whatever happens – Menchaca is a particularly memorable figure of fear. A soft spoken middle aged nobody with glasses, a homely moustache, casual clothes and the overall look of an inoffensive, pays-his-taxes All-American Dad. Indeed, the movie documents his abrupt shift between two personas – the antagonist fond of taunting young women and the ordinary loving family man who talks to his wife and kid on the phone while attempting to keep his captive in check. Given his appearance and manner, it’s entirely credible that a guy like Menchaca could have been pulling this shtick for years – if he approached you for help with a flat tyre, you’d probably feel compelled to help him out.
It’s an intense, well played picture that wastes no time and builds to a short but suitably gripping, violent confrontation. Other than Menchaca and Willcox, the only other significant onscreen character is Anthony Heald, unforgettable as Dr Chilton in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as a hunter caught up in the disturbing action.
Review by Steven West