Single Location Movies -- A Need Of The Hour?
Ever since the Corona pandemic has taken over our everyday lives and confined to small spaces, the idea of a film taking place in a single location has become ever more relatable and relevant. It has also been the need of the hour to make films and entertainment that are confined to lesser locations so that they can be made with fewer complications and crew. Hence, I thought I would talk about 15 of my favorite films that take place in a single location.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Let’s begin with the most obvious film on the list which also happens to be one of the best to be made in a single location. Directed by the veteran filmmaker Sidney Lumet, adapted from a 1954 teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. This courtroom drama tells the story of a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of an 18-year old defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt, forcing the jurors to question their morals and values. The film is lean without an ounce of fat on the body and expertly builds tension purely through the razor-sharp dialogue. The reason this is an absolute must-watch is the impeccable craft at display, especially the blocking and staging.
Tape is another play that is adapted seamlessly into a taut dramatic thriller that is directed by Richard Linklater. It tells the story of Three old high school friends who meet in a Michigan motel room to dissect painful memories from their past. The eccentric filmmaker who is mostly known for languid character pieces puts on his A-game here and creates a thriller that heavily depends on dialogue to tell the story but never dips in the thrills. Each revelation makes the situation ever more volatile and gut-wrenching culminating in a last act that will leave your jaw on the floor. But the thing makes this an absolute must watch is the trio of mesmerizing performances from Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman, who manage to create a dynamic that is nostalgic and destructive all at the same time.
Oththa Seruppu Size 7 (2019)
This is a Tamil film that takes place mostly in a single room with just one character that you see on screen. While there are other characters that influence the plot, they are mostly kept off-screen and relegated to voice roles. It plays out like a long and emotional monologue about the woes of a murder suspect talking about the crimes he might have committed and the modus operandi behind them. I was not very familiar with the works of R. Parthiban before this film, but I must admit I am a fan now. The film is a mashup of multiple genres cleverly blended together using a very clever narrative technique. Watch this to experience the singular talent of Mr. Parthiban who manages to act in, direct, and write this one of a kind murder mystery.
All Is Lost (2013)
With his sophomore effort, the acclaimed filmmaker J C Chandor creates a film that pushes the limits of minimalist storytelling. The film tells the story of a resourceful sailor who stranded at after a shipping container damages his boat. Over the course of the film we learn this man’s fears, problems, insecurities through cleverly placed exposition while we watch him stare mortality in the face. The film does not take any of the easy ways to do this, there is no voiceover, there are no other characters, or unnecessary monologuing. All we have are the majestic sea and the immense talents of Robert Redford that make this film endlessly watchable and an instant classic.
Locke tells the story of an extremely responsible construction manager on the worst day of his life. He has just made a mistake that might destroy his family life irreversibly on the same day that he needs oversee a very large consignment at the site. We watch him balance work and the familial catastrophe in almost saintly way. He has the patience of a monk and the principles of a great man, yet one human folly throws everything he has built over the course of a life time in an hour. The whole film takes place in the car with Tom Hardy answering and making calls to multiple people to resolve each high-stake situation. But you should watch the film for the absolutely majestic yet restrained performance by Tom Hardy and the expertly written script that is at the same time personal in scale and epic in scope.
Kaun is a movie that everyone has heard of, but very few have actually seen it. It’s an underrated masterpiece that was way ahead of its time. The film which is written by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Ram Gopal Varma at the height of his powers is a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing till the last scene. The premise is that a lonely woman (Urmila Matondkar) scared out of her wits is staying in a creepy mansion on a rainy evening and there is a knock on the door by an unknown man (Manoj Bajpayee). What plays out in this taut thriller is a cat and mouse game where you don’t know who is that cat and who is the mouse. If you haven’t caught up with this film, you are missing out.
The Guilty (2018)
This Danish film tells the story of an Alarm dispatcher and former police officer Asger Holm who answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. When the call is suddenly disconnected, the search for the woman and her kidnapper begins. The film is mostly confined to this emergency call centre and we only see his side of the whole ordeal. The film excels in building tension by staying very subjective to the protagonist and slowly putting things into perspective. But the real USP of ten film is the captivating performance by Jakob Cedergren who manages to elevate every second of the 90-minute nail biter.
Funny Games (1998)
Funny Games is a satirical home invasion film by the acclaimed Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke. The film tells the story of two violent young men to take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement. The film was extremely divisive and controversial for its time as it had very polarizing responses from the film community of the time. Some called it a modern-day masterpiece while others called vile and sadistic. The film tries to dissect our fascination towards violence of film and the tropes that come with the genre. This is a self-reflexive mediation on the nature of art, family, guilt, violence, and our perception of it.
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
This is a two-hander by the true definition of the word. The film is mostly set around a table in an expensive looking restaurant. There are no ticking time-bombs or creepy characters or any such narrative devices. Andre and Wally are friends who are meeting after a long time and have changed since they last met, the conversation between these men forms the bulk of the film. The film rejects any notion of tension, but rather depends on the expertly written dialogue talking about god, philosophy, art, humanitarianism, other cultures, etc. This is one of those films that could or could not work for many if you are not into dialogue heavy films. But if you like me and could watch great actors talk extensively about various existential notions of life, this is a must watch.
The Celebration (1998)
This is one of those movies like Requiem for A Dream or Anti-Christ, that will delve deep into your subconscious and leave you a changed person. The film is not disturbing for the sake of it, but deals the kind of subject that is inherently disturbing. The film is shot in the tradition of Dogme 95 and is directed by the Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg. Helge (Henning Moritzen), a respected businessman and family patriarch, is celebrating his 60th birthday at the family-run hotel. All his family and friends have gathered around, little does he know that a long-held family secret is going to come out and the whole procession is thrown into chaos. I would not like to reveal much more, because the mystery is what propels this unbelievably twisted tale of morbid family dynamics.
Rear Window (1954)
I had to add at least one film from the extraordinary back-catalog of Hitchcock himself. There were some other options like rope or to a lesser extent Psycho too. But nothing comes close to the sheer brilliance of the simplicity on display in Rear Window from a standpoint of staging and premise. This extremely tense tale tells the story of a professional photographer Jeff who is stuck in his apartment, recuperating from a broken leg. Out of boredom, he begins to spy on his neighbors and comes across a shocking revelation. What plays out is a classic tale of curiosity and voyeurism that will keep you hooked to the screen for every moment of its running moments. If not that, then watch for the eternal chemistry between James Stewart and Grace Kelly.
This is a film that takes the single location film and really runs with it, by setting the whole purely in a coffin. The story is about Iraq-based American civilian truck driver Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), who, after being attacked, finds himself buried alive in a wooden coffin, with only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pen, pencil, and a mobile phone. The film directed by Rodrigo Cortés Giráldez uses the production design and cinematography by slowly inching us towards absolute existential crisis. We feel everything he feels making this film extremely claustrophobic. But the real pull here is the tour de force performance by Ryan Reynolds who outdoes himself in every way possible. I started looking at him with a very different lens ever since then. We watch him struggle, wince, wail fight, despair and mope, but never losing hope.
The Raid (2011)
The Raid is an Indonesian film directed by Gareth Evans that took the world by storm. The film is very basic at a premise level. A S.W.A.T. team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs. But what makes this one of the best action films of all time is the absolutely bonkers cinematography and the gut-wrenching violence. The film’s pacing only amplifies this feeling as the story-telling is very economic and concentrates on its biggest selling point, the almost balletic action which comes at you from all directions. Just watch this film if you haven’t because you are truly missing out.
Free Fire (2016)
Free Fire takes a similar approach to story-telling as The Raid but shifts the tone ever so slightly into dark comedy. Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shoot-out and a game of survival. The main difference is that here most of the characters don’t know how to fight and fumble there way through the whole this hilarious black action-comedy. Directed by Ben Wheatley, the film maintains his sly sense of cynical humor throughout the film and manages to keep you hooked through this absurdist romp. To boot it has one of the most eclectic casts from Sharlto Copley to Armie Hammer to Brie Larson to Cillian Murphy to Jack Reynor and many more.
Das Boot (1981)
It is 1942 and the German submarine fleet is heavily engaged in the so-called “Battle of the Atlantic” to harass and destroy British shipping. With better escorts of the destroyer class, however, German U-boats have begun to take heavy losses. “Das Boot” is the story of the crew of one such U-Boat, with the film examining how these submariners maintained their professionalism as soldiers and attempted to accomplish impossible missions, all the while attempting to understand and obey the ideology of the government under which they served. The film takes the idea of claustrophobia to new heights all while contextualizing the true terror of being in the war and in an enclosed space for a long period of time.