The Best Single-Location Films

Free-Fire was released to UK cinemas this week, seemingly two-hundred millennia after the preview screenings (ok it was actually like a month, but still). Been excited for it since I first saw the trailer, and more so since I heard that it is like the trailer suggests, and is all in one location. I like when films do that, it’s a sign of good writing and acting if it holds your attention like that. Oddly enough I don’t think I’ve seen one that didn’t work, probably because it’s such a hard thing to pull off that studios will only risk it if they’re absolutely certain it would work, these films have to be better than average as if they’re anything less people will be highly critical. So with that in mind, here’s a list of my favourites. Let’s start some ground rules

  1. Has to mainly (at least 95%) take place in one location.
  2. Location has to be relatively confined (otherwise some smart-ass will be like: “what about this film? It all takes place in one location; earth”)
  3. I have to have seen it (like most of these blogs, this is the biggest hurdle as it counts out Rope and Rear Window, which I was tempted to put in purely on the basis they’re Hitchcock so I’m sure are brilliant)

So, let’s do this.

5. Locke

Yeah, I’m surprised this is the first one I’m mentioning too. I’d have guessed it would be top three, but then I saw what else is on this list, and as much as I do love Locke (and I do) this has to come 5th. I know quite a few people don’t like this, and it’s easy to see why, the “one person cast” kind of films are not for everyone, and that’s okay. Actually I feel that point needs to be made more often; it’s not essential to like a film. It is possible to recognise a film is very well crafted, and still not like it. The whole “if you don’t like x then you’re obviously not smart enough, or you don’t get it, or (and this is the worst) I’m going to explain to you why you’re wrong, using spreadsheets and citations from people” It’s that kind of attitude which puts people off film discussion. The film that made me realise exactly how good Tom Hardy is. This film is unique on this list as the entire film takes place in a car, driving down the motorway. As such you don’t even really get the sense of claustrophobia that these type of films provide. However the fact Hardy’s character is in a moving location does provide a unique feeling to it, despite him being the driver of the car he very much is a passenger of his own film, being driven by fate to a conclusion he’s desperately trying to avoid.

locke
Tom Hardy with his beard of gloom (not pictured; Welsh accent of sadness)

4. Tape

Merging two film gimmicks in one; not only is it all in one location, it also takes place in real time. Unpopular opinion; is probably my favourite Linklater film. I like what it says about people, and the dynamics that occur in certain friendship groups. Very minimalist cast; the entire film is Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard in a room discussing awkward things, then being joined by Uma Thurman for the home stretch. Was originally written as a play by Stephen Belber, only found that out whilst writing this but it’s fairly obvious that was the case whilst watching it. Is the kind of writing that’s perfect for drama students to use for auditions. Unlike most Linklater films this one is often mentioned as something amazing, which is a shame as it is truly something unique and I’d recommend everybody watch it.

3. Moon

Is this a one location film? Apparently so, I don’t remember it being so but apparently it is, and I do love this film so it earns its place. The debut film by Duncan Jones, who has since moved onto direct Source Code and Warcraft, but to me this will always be his best (at least until Mute comes out this year; a sci-fi mystery film starring Alexander Skarsgard as a mute bartender alongside Paul Rudd and Sam Rockwell? I’m sold). This film is one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen, visually stunning (especially on a relatively low budget). Sam Rockwell is mindblowingly good in this, playing not only the main character, but also his clone. Yeah it’s a weird film, but well worth checking out. And it features the voice of Kevin Spacey, what more do you want from this film?

apollo_18_01
It’s also much much better than this, which is a good concept poorly written

2. Breakfast Club

Truth be told, I didn’t even realise this was a single location film until doing research for this. That’s how good this film is. Although let’s face it, part of that might be because has such a large cast compared to the others. Possibly one of the most 80’s films that exists, this defined the genre. Yes, Sixteen Candles was the first of these films, the one that paved the path, but it was Breakfast Club that lit the way so others could follow in their footsteps. Anybody wanting to break into filmmaking should watch this, this is the closest cinema gets to the attitude of punk. One of the main things about punk music was that anybody could do it, you didn’t need to have elaborate sets on stage, you didn’t need the knowledge to play 10 minute guitar solos, you could just pick up instruments and play. This is the film equivalent; there’s absolutely nothing here you can’t do yourself, the locations are all within reach, there’s nothing unachievable here. This would actually be perfect way to showcase skills on a film course; you hand someone the script for this and say “make a scene from this”, and see how they do it.

brians-essay-from-the-breakfast-club

1. Buried

This had to be number one really, and not only because of how much I love Ryan Reynolds (that’s only part of it). I hate to say that I didn’t watch this film because I found the concept interesting, or I read the reviews; I watched this film for one reason and one reason only: Ryan Reynolds. Now if you like Ryan Reynolds, you will love this film, as he is the only person in it. The entire film is him trapped in a box. When I first heard about it i thought that that couldn’t possibly work. Surely they have flashback scenes? Or he gets out about half hour into the film and suddenly it turns into an action film? But no, it’s just one guy, in a box for the entire film. And it is a remarkably effective piece of filmmaking. The singular location means the audience feels just as trapped and claustrophobic as the character. If the film had any cutaway scenes it would only serve to break up the tension. So I’ve established it makes you feel trapped, but is it a good film? The answer; yes it’s fucking good, hence why it’s my number one. I recommend that everybody see this film at least once. But only once, any more like that and you do risk suicide.

buried
It’s this, for an hour and a half. And it’s glorious

Special Mentions (a.k.a; films I’ve heard are good but haven’t watched yet)

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

Reservoir Dogs

12 Angry Men

Das Boot

Symbol

My Dinner With Andre

 

Yes, I apologise for never having seen some of those, I’m a terrible person.

 

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