By Kimber Myers | The Playlist April 1, 2011 at 5:00AM
“Wrecked” does a rare thing. While most movies founder in their third act, this indie survival film actually gets more interesting and watchable in its final 30 minutes. But it’s getting to that final third that’s the real ordeal here. You’ll have to endure the first half hour, with star Adrien Brody crying and occasionally panicking as he wakes up, stuck in a car at the bottom of a cliff with no memory of who he is. It’s 30 minutes of his unnamed character struggling to free his crushed leg from an even more crushed car, wondering who the corpse in the backseat is and worrying who he might be.
As the trailer hints, the crash has left Brody’s character with no idea who he is. However, he begins to pick up clues from the car and from the radio that he may be part of a group of men who robbed a bank and shot a female teller. He begins to hallucinate, and a woman keeps appearing to him as he tries to reconcile the desire to survive with guilt over what he may have done. Once he finally escapes the tangled car, he crawls through the woods trying desperately to find a way out of his predicament, dealing with his own uncertainty as well as lack of food and an abundance of predators.
Written by first-time director Michael Greenspan and first-time scribe Christopher Dodd, “Wrecked” makes its audience suffer along with its amnesiac protagonist. It’s often boring and more than occasionally repetitive, dragging like the character’s lame leg through the woods, and we struggled to tell if that was what the filmmaker was intending. Are we meant to be in as much agony as Brody’s character? Time creeps by for much of the brief 90-minute runtime, and this feels like it would’ve been far more suited to a short film. We admire Dodd for doing more than just a typical survivor story and adding the guilt and memory loss to the mix, but the man’s hallucinations threaten the film’s realism and cheat the audience over and over.
Your feelings about “Wrecked” will likely depend on how you feel about Brody--or about spending 90 minutes watching someone crawl through the woods. He’s in almost every frame of the film (except for when we’re seeing through his eyes), and he is alone, in close-ups, for most of those. He gets to show a range of emotion, but mostly there’s a lot of moaning, whimpering, and shouting (which, to be fair, is likely how we’d respond as we limped through the wilderness with no memory of who we are). His career is something of an oddity, seemingly following the trajectory of an Academy Award-winning actress--or Cuba Gooding Jr.--in its post-Oscar downturn rather than seeing any sort of a bump. This isn’t as meaty as the role that won him the statuette in “The Pianist,” but this allows him to stretch his dramatic muscles far more than recent work in “Predators,” “Splice” and “Giallo.” Intellectually, we can understand what drew him to the challenge of carrying a whole movie on his shoulders, but the challenge shouldn’t have obscured any sense of a good script.
It’s (too) easy to compare “Wrecked” to “127 Hours,” and the former certainly comes up short. While “Wrecked” is interestingly shot by James Liston (certainly one of “127 Hours’” strengths as well), it doesn’t draw you in like Danny Boyle's film did. What made his film so successful was that it didn’t simply focus on Aron Ralston’s ordeal for its whole runtime. Instead, it made him someone to care about as it began with establishing his character then it cut between his struggle to free himself and his memories. What makes “Wrecked” somehow simultaneously interesting and a failure is its refusal to give Brody’s character more than a hint of a backstory (and what we see is not a particularly sympathetic one) and flashbacks are simply migraine-inducing flashes. You don’t particularly care if he is rescued, except that it simultaneously means your own salvation as well. [C-]