Two men, average corporate types, are carpooling to work one fine California day. The driver, Teddy, takes a detour to the local park--he wants to show his friend something; it won't take long, he assures him. Soon, they're smack in the middle of the woods. Without warning, Teddy knocks his friend unconscious; the other man awakens to find himself tied to a tree, with Teddy standing over his head and telling him he has exactly thirty-six minutes to live.It's a great set-up, a simple but effective variation on the age-old ticking-bomb plot. Director J. Michael Couto takes this bare-bones scenario and skillfully stays one step ahead of the viewer right up until the final scene; I was never sure where the story was heading, which is rather miraculous considering how few possibilities you have when your film consists almost entirely of two men out in the woods. (Admittedly, I have a poor track record at figuring out these things; I was flummoxed by much of THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE.) The script (by Couto and Grant Holly) was put together with impressive skill; seemingly insignificant lines of dialogue in the early scenes unexpectedly acquire enormous importance later on, as threads begin to tie together.
In addition, Couto is well served by his actors. Good thing, too, because if even one of these guys hadn't been up to snuff, it would have wrecked the movie. As Teddy, Christopher Bauer brings a tantalizing ambiguity to the film--with his innoculous office-drone visage, it's hard to tell whether he's a psycho or merely spaced out. Currie Graham is also good as an ordinary fellow who suddenly finds himself in a life-or-death situation.
The film's defects are comparatively minor. Couto experiments with the time scheme at various junctures, showing certain events out of order. For the most part he handles it well, but occasionally he creates unnecessary confusion; a certain sequence that I had assumed was a flash-forward eventually turns out to be a flashback.This is an excellent thriller, one that should be seen by a broader audience.