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Locked In

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 14, 2014
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 5, 2014 | E-mail the Author
On the way home from picking up a Christmas tree, Josh (Ben Barnes), Emma (Sarah Roemer), and Brooke (Abby and Helen Steinman) crash in one of the city's traffic tunnels. All three members of the family survive, but Brooke is afflicted by something the doctors call "locked in" syndrome, which is different from a coma in that the person is able to think and feel, just not respond to outside stimuli. The doctor explains that this causes the mind to deteriorate quickly, thanks to the resulting sense of isolation. Josh and Emma are devastated, but Josh begins experiencing signs that something stranger is happening. Brooke calls him on the phone, an impossible thing. He and Emma find a drawing in one of her old books of the crash. Something strange about the left tail light keeps nagging at him. Could it have something to do with Renee (Eliza Dushku), the woman Josh cheated on Emma with, nearly destroying their marriage? More importantly, can he figure it out in time to save Brooke's sanity?

Although Locked In is arriving on DVD in 2014, the film has a 2010 release date on IMDb, when it played at a single film festival. Watching it, it's unsurprising that the film languished on the shelf for four years, as it's a decidedly uninspired thriller. Veteran television and film director Suri Krishnamma offers competent execution of the script, but there's no imagination or energy to the movie, which hardly seems committed to its own ideas. Also mentioned on IMDb: an 85-minute runtime, yet the DVD version only runs 78. The difference suggests someone hacked a few minutes out of the film for pacing reasons in hopes of rehabilitating it for release, but the movie still shuffles so listlessly toward the finish line that it feels longer than its original length.

The most interesting thing about the film is Krishnamma's direction, which is intentionally disorienting. He uses the edges of the frame to cut off and fragment his characters, as a parallel to their state of mind. The film has a non-linear narrative, jumping back and forth through Josh and Emma's troubled home life and his affair with Renee at random times. Josh is staying in a dingy motel instead of living at home, and I'm pretty sure Krishnamma intentionally shoots flashback scenes of Josh in the hotel in the exact same way as scenes set in the present day, which gives the film the sense that time is all running together. It's occasionally interesting, but it can also be irritating, especially Krishnamma's insistence on constant, drifting camera movement.

The film also boasts decent performances by its lead actors. Barnes is a relatively fresh face, an actor without an established persona, and combined with his character's constant confusion, his actions feel unpredictable as a result. The script lets Josh off the hook a bit too much; it's hard to believe such a gentle guy would cheat on his wife, and he seems dazed as he's doing the deed. However, that same sweetness is crucial to what measure of the film's overall tone manages to take hold. There's a genuine wish to see Emma and Josh, both in recovery, come together and pick up the pieces of their lives. Roemer finds a nice balance between critical and heartbroken, giving Josh leeway but metering her warmth. Dushku is fun to watch as the sultry temptress, although her part in the role is minimal. "The Wire" vet Clarke Peters and Brenda Fricker also appear in supporting roles, but they have little to do.

That said, the simple truth about Locked In is that any audience member paying attention will probably figure out what's up in the first ten minutes, and once you know what's going on, there's really no reason to keep watching. It took a significant amount of willpower to keep from skipping straight to the end, and I was not disappointed, despite a second revelation in the closing minute that tries to pull a fast one, but is mostly just confusing. It's generally frowned on to compare movies, but Marc Forster's 2005 film Stay is a marginally better version of the same idea, boasting more interesting directorial tricks and a similarly impressive cast. The only sense of being trapped here is waiting until the film is over, to see its predictable final beats play out pretty much as expected.

Generic blue-tone thriller artwork is offered up for Locked In, with a three-panel image of the cast and a smaller image of Barnes in the tunnel beneath it. The blue lens flare and generic title suggest more of a thriller than the movie actually is, but it looks fine aside from being generic. The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is a sheet with an UltraViolet digital copy code (SD only) inside the case.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, Locked In looks and sounds pretty decent for a DVD, although it can still look a bit rough around the edges. Blacks occasionally crush (apparently the new solution for avoiding banding, which is not an issue), and the film's grainy look doesn't translate smoothly to standard definition. Detail is generally pretty good and colors are nicely saturated, though, and there is a minimum of compression haloes and no artifacts or other anomalies that I could spot. The surround sound track gets the work done during the crash sequences and some other intense moments, but this is mostly a low-key affair centered around dialogue and quiet, simple music, which all sounds just fine. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
None. Trailers for Enemy, Branded, Arbitrage, and a promo for Epix play before the main menu.

It took four years for Locked In to become available to the public, and despite some apparent changes, the results are still roundly disappointing. This uninspired picture is a shadow of several that have come before it, and viewers will almost certainly grasp the simple game the film is playing long before it reveals its cards. Skip it.

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