Brendan Walsh’s chilly survivalist thriller, Centigrade, is a creatively crafted claustrophobic examine of a fractured marriage. Strongly acted, the drama wallows in melancholy whereas presenting peaks of hope amid its easy icy setting.
It’s additionally a uncommon two-person survivalist movie. The lone-wolf format is in style, the place one particular person not solely faces harsh environments — a abandoned island, the expansive sea, the depth of a canyon, an alien planet — however the psychological travails of loneliness. A gaggle survival film usually imagines the identical environmental battles, however on the identical time, couches the drama in a batch of individuals studying to work collectively. Both iterations can characteristic trapped people (Castaway, All is Lost, 127 Hours, and The Martian) or people on the transfer (The Revenant, Vertical Limit, or The Perfect Storm). But Centigrade is a two-hander, and Walsh makes good use of the construction.
Set in 2002, and impressed by true occasions, the thriller finds an American novelist and her husband touring by means of Norway on a modest e-book tour when a nighttime snowstorm persuades them to drag over on the facet of the highway for the evening. When they awake, their SUV is buried in snow and ice, and their home windows and doorways are frozen shut.
As with motion pictures like The Road and Adrift, the couple not solely study to stay on the barest necessities, in addition they confront the truths and lies they’ve at all times prevented. Walsh takes the easy intimate setting of a husband and spouse imprisoned in a fatally chilly automotive, and enlivens the story with compelling shocks of despair and intrigue.
Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez, Big Hero 6) is the primary to awake within the frozen car. Upon realizing the inoperability of the home windows and doorways, the panic-stricken writer shakes her husband Matt (Vincent Piazza, Boardwalk Empire) from his slumber. Their car options three rows of seats, which permits Walsh loads of depth and an array of low angles throughout the thriller’s early scenes. A literal plot gap opens up with the presence of a skylight.
Walsh additionally establishes the temperament of the couple by means of staging. The anxiety-riddled Naomi believes they need to break a window open and instantly escape; whereas Matt cautions her in opposition to venturing out into the weather with none thought of the climate. Making issues extra precarious, Naomi is pregnant and never removed from her supply date. Despite being primarily based on a real story, Walsh misses the possibility to interrogate the plain gender stereotypes of Naomi enjoying the hysterical girl and Matt as the extent headed man.
By their estimation, the pair have sufficient water, cookies, sandwiches, and candies to outlive for 12 days. With the passing days, comes the rising of tensions, cinematographer Seamus Tierney’s as soon as tender lighting, and the intricate angles which supplied depth within the claustrophobic car, morphs into tight close-ups and compact pure framing, which friends between the seats of the automotive to seize expressions of suspicion and worry on their faces.
The constricting house reveals the couple’s painful rift. For occasion, they squabble over who deserves probably the most blame for his or her predicament, with Naomi believing the pair ought to’ve braved the storm and stored driving. Revelatory secrets and techniques involving tablets and employment additional wedges them aside.
Though Matt makes use of his swiss military knife to notch the dashboard, and Walsh supplies time stamps, even the variety of days runs away from the couple and the viewers. Soon, solely deliberate pans throughout the suv’s dashboard and heart console present the buildup of ice and the passage of time. The make-up, when mixed with the movie’s later harsh lighting, shows their frostbite and weariness in stark aid. At first kinetic, to display the pair’s preliminary shock at their scenario, Bradley J. Ross’ modifying slows to a patiently paced crawl to exemplify the husband and spouse’s dwindling endurance. In a movie with a restricted setting, storytelling by means of crafts rises to the event.
And whereas rays of hope do arrive, such because the passing of a snow plow or a automotive, or the specter of a barely charged cellphone, they cross like fatalistically merciless jokes. Rather than instilling daydreams of rescue, they reinforce nightmares of resignation. In its 95 minutes, with the emergence of life and the looks of demise, Centigrade takes each celebratory and mournful turns.
Rodriguez and Piazza add emotional complexity by means of the tiniest tics. It may be a faint smile — similar to Matt telling Naomi he isn’t hungry within the hopes of her consuming a bigger portion — or a pissed off scowl. Their scenario resolves in unexpected and tragic ways in which, whereas powerful, really feel rushed in comparison with the hard-fought good points within the majority of the drama. But as a characteristic debut, Walsh’s Centigrade is an immersive survivalist movie that finds modest mileage by pitching collectively the dread of demise with the crumbling of a wedding.
Centigrade is out now in drive-in theaters, and is offered to lease on Amazon, Vudu, and VOD.