Critics' Pick

Detour (2013) (NR)

Suspense/Thriller 87 min. March 29, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
Think of the blackest crawl space you encountered as a child, and then imagine curling up inside it, at midnight, for the better part of 90 minutes, and you're getting close to the experience of watching writer/director William Dickerson's debut feature Detour-- and, yes, that's a compliment. Dickerson's thriller details the efforts of a prickish ad exec to survive the kind of disaster that most movie heroes would triumph over in a reel or two before moving on to the next one. (Well, except the heroes of Buried and 127 Hours.) In this case, a coastal California mud slide buries his car, leaving that ad bro (Neil Hopkins)-- and us-- in crushing darkness. From there, he has to get it together first to stay alive and then somehow to escape, even as the earth presses against a glass sunroof that—just when you’re starting to relax a bit—begins to whine and split. Basics are an immediate challenge: How to pee? What to breathe? The ad bro conducts an inventory, searching for uses for the junk that accumulates beneath seats and in the (thankfully) accessible trunk space. During the best sequences, Detour feels like three heady improvisations all happening at once: The character crafts clever and surprising solutions to his ever-mounting problems; the writer/director likewise bests a near-insurmountable challenge, that of maintaining audience interest in a film set in a black box; and you, possibly in a sweat, mull the practicalities—-- "what would I use the tire for?"-- as well as the bull-session Big Questions, like "How bad would things have to get before I just decided to die?"
William Dickerson Neil Hopkins, Brea Grant, John Forest, Ptolemy Slocum, Deb Snyder William Dickerson, Dwight Moody Independent Pictures

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