Man vs. Wild: 'Wrecked'

In many ways, Wrecked is less about the car accident and the aftermath and more about the reasons behind Brody's presence in the vehicle and what he did once there.


Director: Michael Greenspan
Cast: Adrien Brody, Caroline Dhavernas, Ryan Robbins
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: IFC
Year: 2010
US Release Date: 2011-04-01

One man vs. the elements. It's not a new concept, and it's definitely limited in its cinematic possibilities. After all, movies are typically about 'people', not person, and a series of events, not one locked down situation for several minutes. Yet ever since Tom Hanks shed several pounds to play a castaway in the film of the same name, Hollywood has relished the attempt at what is almost always a one actor (or actress) show. We've had Stuck, the excellent Buried, and Danny Boyle's dense 127 Hours. Now comes Wrecked, a Canadian effort (picked up by IFC for On Demand and release on 1 April) which finds Oscar winner Adrien Brody essaying the lone survivor against the wild routine. Suspenseful, beautifully rendered, and capable of keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat, the film argues for the continuing viability of this once dismissed motion picture dynamic.

Brody wakes half-dazed and very, very confused. He is an unnamed man trapped in a car at the bottom of a ravine, his legs immobile and locked under a crushed dashboard. Unable to remember who he is or how he got there, he tries to piece together the recent past. There are flashes of information - a bank robbery, a gun, a possible hostage. But he is unsure of said facts, and his eyes are starting to play tricks on him. At first, he sees a woman who appears to know him. Then a friendly dog starts showing up. One night, a mountain lion makes a sudden appearance, and claws at the corpses left in the accident's wake. Finally freeing himself, he struggles to make it back to civilization. In the meantime, he begins remembering the events of the last few days, and what he sees may be more disturbing than his current predicament.

There are several mysteries wafting through the scenic setting of Wrecked. There's the identity of "the man", why he is in a car with two dead bodies, how the vehicle veered off the road in the first place, and who (or what) are these "visions" plaguing our unlikely hero. Thankfully, screenwriter Christopher Dodd does an excellent job of pacing out the revelations, never letting the story get too far ahead of the audience. He is joined in the journey by the masterful direction of first time feature filmmaker Michael Greenspan. Using a lush British Columbia woodlands as a backdrop, we get caught up in the fever dream qualities of the approach, losing ourselves in the sense of isolation and regional desperation. It's impossible to figure out where our lead will go next, a sinister possibility and problem just beyond each verdant horizon.

Luckily, Dodd and Greenspan have an actor as remarkable as Adrien Brody to pull this all off. From the moment we meet our guide, from the lost look in his eyes to the whimpering pleas for help, we are transfixed. The performance begs that we continue on with this narrative, that we get inside the complex components of what we see happening onscreen and stick around to have them all resolved. Throughout the entire first act, Brody is trapped inside a vehicle, the limited movement allowing for even more compelling scenes and situations. Once outside and crawling along the underbrush, the scope opens, and so do the acting possibilities. Brody is absolutely brilliant here, so much so that he threatens to overwhelm the other intriguing aspects of the film.

As for the various revelations - they make a world of difference in our overall appreciation. In one of those rare instances where the twists actually move the plot along, avenues of opportunity open up with each answer. Even the hallucinations don't bother us since, unlike traditional red herrings, they aren't trying to lead us to a lie. Instead, the visions act as a Greek Chorus, commenting on the conflict raging inside our hero. Is he bad? Is he good? An innocent bystander or a cause of all the misery at hand? The drive to understand the various aspects of the premise press us to keep Wrecked front and center in our psyche. Then Brody ups the ante by making us invest in his wounded survivor and the entire film flips into overdrive.

Hats off to Greenspan for having the ability to keep this potentially unwieldy material grounded. If the devil is in the details, his attention to same spawns from Hell itself. Our victim spends the first few minutes of the movie focusing on the small things around him - a piece of candy, a distant radio signal, the sound of footsteps off in the distance. As we move further into the narrative, muddy tracks, splotches of blood, missing money, and far more significant sounds fill the spaces. Unlike Cast Away, which had Tom Hanks on a running commentary with a volley ball, Wrecked gives Brody a canine 'pal' and then lets their relationship play out in moments of often wordless warmth.

This is all Greenspan's doing, a directorial job that generates as much affection as suspense. By juggling several different mysteries, by never letting one revelation wreck another, he keeps us motivated and moving along. Some will see the coincidences and complaints inherent in this man's struggle, arguing over specific sequences without seeing the big picture. In many ways, Wrecked is less about the car accident and the aftermath and more about the reasons behind Brody's presence in the vehicle and what he did once there. This is a man whose life was surely falling apart. There inferences are all there. Like any fight for redemption, the motive is much more important than the mission. In this case, we are still dealing with the basics of one man vs. the element. However, in the hands of Brody and Greenspan, it becomes something much, much more.






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