WRECKED – Blu-ray review

“Wrecked” (2010) draws inevitable comparisons to “Cast Away,” the 2000 tour de force in which Tom Hanks played a modern-day Crusoe plane-wrecked on a deserted island. Like “Cast Away,” there’s really no cast to speak of here–just Adrien Brody as an amnesiac who awakens in the passenger side of a car that had crashed down a mountain ravine. Trapped and with severe injuries to his legs, he tries to both survive and piece together what happened.

But while “Cast Away” grabbed my attention from the very first point-of-view plane crash and held it until the end, if I had gone to see “Wrecked” at the local multi-plex I probably would have gotten up to get popcorn 20 minutes into the film, then slipped into a different theater.

Even then, it would still be another five minutes before someone besides Brody came into the picture–and that’s counting recollections or flashbacks. All totaled, in “Wrecked” there are just two dead bodies, a gun, two animals, two men, a female, and people from the “answer” flashback that we get at the film’s very end. Some viewers like surprise / twist / O. Henry endings. I don’t. It always feels like the writer or director is deliberately withholding information and then slapping it on at the end, when it would have been better to integrate it somehow.

“Wrecked” isn’t even as successful as “Buried,” another 2010 virtual one-man-show starring Ryan Reynolds as a truck driver who realizes that after an Iraqi attack he was apparently buried alive inside a coffin. In the case of “Buried” and also “Cast Away,” what makes it hold some interest even when the going gets tough . . . and slow . . . is that we’re made to care about the characters’ and appreciate their situations. With the man in the car crash, long minutes go by when we just get point-of-view filming as he awakens and sees everything just a little fuzzy, then shards of glass, then wilderness through the broken windshield. It takes him quite a long time to take inventory in this real-time drama and realize how badly injured he is, and that he has no recollection of who he is, or why he’s sitting in a car in which there’s a dead man in the back seat and another dead man apparently thrown from the vehicle. He moans, he shouts in pain, and while it all might be realistic as hell, I found myself not caring about him because information was so stingily parceled out.

Yes, I understand that this is a different kind of mystery in which Who done it? is replaced by Who is it?, and I certainly can appreciate the job that Brody does in trying to carry the load. Except for a few moments in which he seemed to be channeling Brando from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Brody nailed the role. But that didn’t make me care any more about what was going on. The chief element of interest for me was a cougar . . . which, unfortunately, also was used sparingly.

We won’t even get into what it does to the tone of this film when Brody’s character finally manages to stretch to turn on the radio and what comes out is Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe through the Tulips.” Bad enough, right? But then Brody’s character seems to sing along and seems pleased by it. Meanwhile, I’m looking for clues or symbolism, and all I’ve got is Tiny Tim? That’s one stand-out example of where Michael Greenspan, directing his first feature, could have worked more consciously to integrate elements into the narrative that would give it more texture and complexity.

At the Abu Dhabi Film Festival Greenspan said that the film was shot in just 18 days, in order, and I don’t find that hard to believe, nor do I find it hard to believe that this was a “free-writing” experiment for Dodd, who told the same audience that he had no outline or plan. It’s not a bad film, but “Wrecked” is one of those productions that makes you think it could (and should) have been much better. And there are two better one-man-shows out there to prove it.

“Wrecked” was shot on 35mm film with Panavision cameras and lenses at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It comes to Blu-ray via a very nice AVC/MPEG-4 transfer that seems to me blemish free. This is a naturalistic film, and colors indeed look natural. There’s also plenty of detail, and you’d better like looking at cuts and gashes and bruises up-close-and-personal, because the first third of this film uses a lot of in-your-face shots using close-ups of Brody’s battered features. The greenery looks like it’s straight out of Ewok land!

There isn’t much dialogue in “Wrecked,” but there is a lot of breathing, grunting, moaning, and so on, and during the film’s considerable silences you can hear pure silence free of camera whir, distortion, and soundtrack noise. The featured track is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. During one of the film’s more interesting segments–a whitewater episode–the rear speakers kick in, but otherwise it’s silence or the very muted sounds of the forest. Even as close to a highway as they are, there’s no distant sounds of traffic. This is isolation, and the soundtrack does a nice job of underscoring the wilderness setting.

Other than a workmanlike making-of featurette that cobbles together the usual blend of clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and on-camera interviews that runs around 15 minutes, all we get is “Flight of the Chevy” (a seven-minute featurette about how helicopters had to haul in the wrecked car and remove it after filming), “The Woman’s Perspective” (a three-minute bit with Caroline Dhavernas talking about her character), “A Day in the Life of George” (a two-minute featurette about the artificial dead body in the back seat), and the trailer, all in HD.

Bottom Line:
I can see what attracted Brody to this film, but “Wrecked,” like bowling, is one of those enterprises that seems more interesting to participate in than it is to watch.