Psychological horror blends with science fiction in director Jason Satterlund‘s “The Abandon,” a film that confines its action and story into one small, cramped room. Without a smart and thoughtful script (from writer Dwain Worrell) and the strong lead performance from Jonathan Rosenthal, this film wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.
American solider Miles Willis (Rosenthal) is wounded during a shootout battle in Iraq. Trying to radio for help, Miles sees a blinding light and blacks out. He wakes up to find himself trapped in an empty, strange room with no doors and no windows. Assuming he is being held by the enemy, Miles again tries to radio for help, to no avail.
As time passes, the gray cube in which he’s imprisoned begins to change. The temperature becomes so outrageously hot that his sweat sizzles and evaporates on contact, mysterious writing and clues appear on the walls, and random, sudden shifts in gravity send him flying across the room.
The confinement begins to its toll both physically and mentally until something even stranger happens. Miles gets a call on his satellite phone from a woman named Damsey (Tamara Perry) who claims to be trapped in a similar space halfway around the world.
Setting a sci-fi story in such a limited, confined space is gutsy, but Satterlund makes it work. His storytelling relies mostly on the audio communication between two strangers and their determination to solve the puzzle as to why they are both trapped in small cubes. All they have is each other, working together to find a possible escape route. It’s this cooperation that builds the foundation for the narrative, even if much of it is a puzzling mystery.
With clever lighting and resourceful work from cinematographer Ray Huang, the small cube always looks fresh and different. It’s claustrophobic to be sure, but the subtle changes keep it from becoming stagnant. It’s a really creative use of one room.
The last third of the film stumbles a bit, with an overemphasis on mathematical equations and repetition that begins to become tiring. The finale is a bit frustrating, with references to another dimension and no clear resolution to the story. Still, “The Abandon” is interesting and impressive, even if the mystery of where the characters are and why they are there feels intentionally obtuse.
By: Louisa Moore