Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big  Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Claustrophobes Need Not Apply: 16 Single Location Movies

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist November 4, 2010 at 4:08AM

One of the basic tenets fledgling filmmakers are taught and encouraged towards in film school, at least when they're starting out, is to pick a simple, ideally single-setting location for practical reasons: budgets and lack thereof, permits, control, lighting ease, etc. If you're a broke film student with little means, the easiest way to make a film is to set it in one environment where you ideally have total control.
7

127 Hours, James Franco
One of the basic tenets fledgling filmmakers are taught and encouraged towards in film school, at least when they're starting out, is to pick a simple, ideally single-setting location for practical reasons: budgets and lack thereof, permits, control, lighting ease, etc. If you're a broke film student with little means, the easiest way to make a film is to set it in one environment where you ideally have total control.

To wit; Quentin Tarantino set his heist picture "Reservoir Dogs" within a warehouse and never actually showed the heist, instead choosing to keep the inside as an interior shoot save for a few scenes outside that were probably shot in day or two. Interestingly enough, of our list of the best single-location films, almost all these filmmakers set these films in a single setting by creative choice and not because they were forced to. The methodology behind it isn't far removed from Jack White's less-is-more manifesto within the White Stripes: forcing yourself to be creatively inventive by subtracting all the toys you normally have at your disposal and returning back to basics.

Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" hits theaters today in limited release, and while it's not strictly set in a single location, the vast majority of the film is set in a single, claustrophobic canyon, with canyoner Aron Ralston trapped under a boulder. Boyle uses every trick in his cinematic vocabulary to keep the situation fresh, but we thought we'd examine how other filmmakers, from Alfred Hitchcock to, most recently, "Buried" director Rodrigo Cortes, have dealt with a single location.

"Rope" (1948)
In "Rope," based on the real life case of Leopold and Loeb, two university students who believed in Nietzsche's Übermensch theory of murder as the ultimate act of intellectual superiority, Alfred Hitchcock throws up a number of technical hurdles in his way in bringing the story (based on the 1929 Patrick Hamilton play) to the big screen. In addition to the single location setting, an apartment, Hitchcock plays out the film in (more or less) real time (watch the sun change position outside the window throughout the film) and attempts to present the film as one uninterrupted take thanks to some clever editing. While the technical gambits don’t always work and are at times distracting, the overall effect can’t be denied. With terrific lead performances by John Dall and Farley Granger as the murderous duo, and the always reliable James Stewart as their suspicious teacher, “Rope” is a wickedly fun cat-and-mouse game that raises the stakes by keeping all the players in the frame for the entire run time. Dall in particular is a standout as Brandon, a bundle of giddy joy combined with a perverse sense of accomplishment while Granger holds his own as the much more nervous and guilt-ridden Phillip. Even if you know just how their “perfect crime” is ultimately revealed, “Rope” is still great fun to watch. The verbal sparring is delicious and the streak of homo-eroticism running through the film is remarkable for its time. Not many of the single setting films on this list attempt as much as Hitchcock juggles here, but for the most part it works, and more importantly, the story quickly becomes much more fascinating than the novelties used to tell it. [B+]

"12 Angry Men" (1957)
Pedants, stand down - while the film is bookended with scenes outside, and the bathroom is briefly featured, “12 Angry Men” is at heart a single-location film; everything of import happens, enclosed in time and space, in a sweaty, featureless jury room where the 12 men of the title are sent to decide the fate of a man accused of murder. Based on (and apparently differing little script-wise from) a teleplay of the same name, that the film never feels anything but cinematic, despite its TV roots and the deliberate theatricality of its staging (witness the beautiful choreography of that devastating moment when the ranting racist reveals himself, and each of his fellows one by one stands and turns his back) is in large part due to the blistering performances, marshaled by a never-better Sidney Lumet throughout the course of an arduous rehearsal process. Special mention must go to Henry Fonda, whose work here is a masterpiece of understatement and restrained intelligence and promotes the film from a meditation on liberality, the judicial system and the meaning of justice (interesting) to a keenly-observed essay on the mechanics of power and manipulation (interestinger). Yes, some of the details may seem trite now - a witness GASP wasn’t wearing her glasses; an old man SHOCK drags his leg - but more often it’s not the ‘facts’ that change minds, instead each man is proven wrong by exposing his hubris, bias and pettiness to the rest, and to himself. This perhaps is the film’s most remarkable achievement; it is a towering monument to the idea that the ‘ordinary man’ is at heart good and kind -- it’s just that sometimes he need a little reminding. [A]

This article is related to: Feature, Films, 127 Hours


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates