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.

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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?

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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.

 

4 reasons The Hateful 8 is worth seeing and 4 it’s not

4 reasons The Hateful 8 is worth seeing
and 4 it’s not

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Out the gate; this isn’t Tarantino’s best film, nor is it his worst (like some people have been calling it), but like most things there are two sides to it. So here are those two sides, four reasons you should give up your hard earned cash to go see this lil’ epic, and four reasons to wait and see it by other means.

 

The Good

  • Tim Roth & Walton Goggins: The film is of course an ensemble piece with a stellar cast who are (mostly) outstanding; from Kurt Russel’s and Samuel L Jackson’s badass bounty hunters (Jackson is particularly on form), to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s now Oscar nominated turn as the creepily vulgar and frequently hilarious fugitive, Daisy Domergue. 973753f0-7b77-0133-4d9b-0e3f8b958f63

But it’s Tarantino veteran Tim Roth and Justified’s anti-hero Walton Goggins (seriously if you haven’t seen Justified DO!) who steal the show, the scenery and nearly the whole damn picture. Mr Roth is on rip-roaring scene chewing form as the extremely Twee British Hangman Oswaldo Mobray, who’s every smug verbal extremity and every sly glance and gesture leaves you in stitches, whether he’s debating the-hateful-eight-debuts-first-teaser-trailerthe ethics of justice with the brash Kurt Russel, or stopping everyone from shooting each other. Walton Goggins on the other hand is just having a blast as the fun loving, dorky, hill-billy-esque former confederate, who is so country and western he says things like, “I’ll be double dog dammed”, and you can’t help but smile at his every slapstick manoeuvre. He and Roth are like the two sides to the same chocolate and cheese coin. Goggin’s character also has the best (and I think only) arc in the film.

  • The cinematography/ the setting: Shot in glorious 70mm (which I didn’t see it in), there is just something awesome about a Western in the snow, and the landscape is captured beautifully to the point where the opening few shots could be confused with The Revenant. And then after the loooooong opening act (we’ll get to that in the next section), when we get to the much advertised cabin setting, it managed to keep that prestige in what really should of been a claustrophobic mess.
    hateful-81But the cabin is large and surprisingly complex, with each corner, from the bar to the fireplace, becoming their own country and safe ground for the characters. What I’m saying I guess is for a film predominantly set in one room, it still feels large and epic.hateful-eight-5

 

Morricone

  • The music: Of course with a score from the Godfather of Western composers Ennio Morricone, how could this not be one of the reasons? But beyond the classic western theme that’s winning all the awards, far less appreciation is being said for the other uses of music and score; with awesome music from The Exorcist 2 and unused tracks from The Thing being part of the soundtrack, and it fits perfectly. As well as a violin quintet that perfectly shapes the mystery vibe the film strives for in its second act. One thing Tarantino hasn’t lost is his impeccable ear for soundtrack.

 

  • The Ending: I won’t ruin it for the few people who haven’t seen it, but I will still reservoir_dogs_queer6talk about it. It’s bloody, it’s fun, its ambiguous, yet somehow also satisfying enough, as those you want to see get it do (for the most part) and those you want to see make good also do (for the most part), without resorting to anything overly happy….Though the more I think about it the more it seems like a re-tread of Reservoir Dogs. Still for a film that gets so messy in every way, it has strong closing minutes.

 

 

The bad (and the ugly…sorry)

  • The twist: So again I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it and for some reason
    Picture2
    Without context this doesn’t give away too much

    may be debating whether to from this list, but I’ll say this: you can ignore it all you want and enjoy a lot of other aspects about it, but the twist breaks the film and makes the three hours you spend watching kind of pointless. As by the twists logic the film could have been finished within Kurt Russel storming into the cabin, and the more you marinade over it, the less it, and so many other situations, make sense. If you can put that aside (which I can do to a point) the film still works, but you shouldn’t have to ignore the plot to enjoy a film.

 

  • The length: This is Tarantino at his most Tarantino and self-indulgent. I understand the idea. He wants to make it a classic epic Western, but that isn’t an excuse for 40 minutes of set-up before ‘the plot’ sets in, nor another half hour of flashbacks just to explain the overwrought twist, orjust the endless monologues and detours, with only about half lending anything to the situation or are really entertaining.
    Picture3
    couldn’t think of a image to go with time

    Now I know what some of you are thinking, we need all that time to introduce all the characters and flesh them out…and that leads directly into the next point…

 

gage

  • Joe Gage and a third of the cast: A third the cast are just kind of dull, underdeveloped and uninteresting. I wouldn’t be shocked if Tarantino had the title first, but then gave up halfway trying to fill it with 8 interesting characters. Bruce Dern’s old racist confederate general is probably the most interesting uninteresting character, but he’s really just there to flesh-out Goggin’s and Jackson’s characters. Michael Madsen is….there; he showed up, he spoke. And dernDemián Bichir’s character’s biggest trait is that he’s Mexican…oh and he played piano in that one scene. For a film this long and boasting an apparently hateful 8 (even though theres like ten of them really), its inexcusable that almost half the cast are uninteresting mexicajnunderdeveloped characters, there just to pad out the length like tissue in a bra.

 

 

 

  • What it could have been: A lot of people have been comparing this to Clue or calling it a form of whodunit and it is…for a minute…when it feels like it.qz6uv0xwBut it gets so bogged down with detours, homage, pointless scenes, sucking it’s own dick, and having a bullshit twist it never really gets there. And it could have been great if it did! A Tarantino whodunit, that just sounds amazing. With the same set of
    Clue_Poster
    Very underrated comedy!

    characters (well maybe a few less), and the same set-up and location, all that needed to happen was someone dies, and then the film is them trying to work out who did it, as the tension and egos run high. Instead it kind of does that in the second middle, but then makes that whole section pointless with the reveal of who did it, how, and why. Rule number one of twists: if it isn’t more interesting than what you have already established then don’t do it.

 

Through writing these eight reasons, for all the things I like about it that make it worth a see, the more I’m discovering how big the problems are and how they weigh down what could of (should of) been a classic Tarantino, if Tarantino hadn’t gotten in the way.