A Raw and Ambitious Thriller
Shaun (Francesco Filice) wakes up in a bathtub full of his own puke. He stumbles around to discover that a woman named Sarah died while he was unconscious. At his wit’s end, Shaun calls Amy (Caleigh Le Grand), the only person he can think of. Shaun relies on Amy to guide him onto the right course of action during such a traumatic event. Before they can catch their bearings, a man with a gun named Kenny (Patrick McFadden) begins chasing them around the city seeking answers.
Writer, director, and cinematographer Justin McConnell (Skull World, The Collapsed) gives us his version of the one-take real-time crime thriller in Broken Mile. A Canadian production, Broken Mile is an independent film in every sense of the word but that’s where its concept works best. Broken Mile never cuts. There’s never a sudden shift from one scene to another. The camera is always rolling and following these characters from the very beginning to the bittersweet end.
The way the film is shot is its crowning achievement. This is an extremely ambitious way to make a film. The camera is always right behind someone as they leave a room, walk down a tight corridor, or stomp down the street. It’s McConnell cramming himself into a car along with a camera and the actor(s) as they drive around; like actually drive and not sit in a car parked in front of a green screen. It’s as if you’re an extra person forced to survey the events of the film.
How the film looks is also intriguing. Harsh fluorescent lighting bleeds into every frame with various greens, reds, yellows, and purples. Visually Broken Mile is like a more indie version of Atomic Blonde. Enclosed spaces in the film have a claustrophobic feel to them, which is probably thanks to the camera perspective making it seem like you’re squished right up next to these actors like being stuck in a crowded elevator. But it’s almost as if the film has a slight fish-eye effect, which is an attempt at disorientation. This would play into Shaun’s issues with drugs, alcohol, and coming down off those vices nicely; at least for the audience.
Unfortunately, the storyline and acting are lacking. The story begins with a premise that is somewhat fascinating, but the film fails to capitalize as it mostly feels like Broken Mile is stalling, lingering, and wandering around for the majority of its very short 82 minute runtime. The overdramatic conclusion doesn’t help matters and the taxi driver, who seems to be trying to say something about the importance of lying and doing stupid things when you’re young, mostly comes off as a rambling madman. The acting of the three leads is stiff and inconsistent with all of them failing to make a lasting impression other than knowing how to freak out and stretch out bad situations in the worst kind of way. This is also disappointing since the actors didn’t have an opportunity to blow any of their lines.It takes a certain talent and determination to make a film like this in one continuous shot. It's just a shame it isn't more memorable.
If you’ve seen any of Justin McConnell’s work, then you know he’s a talented filmmaker. He just hasn’t had the opportunity to bring in all of the proper elements to make a solid, impressionable film just yet (but Skull World has been his best to date). Broken Mile tries to be this unique cat and mouse thriller with nonstop tension and a small glimpse of a guilty man being haunted by his own heartbeat like a weird twist on The Tell-Tale Heart. But the film’s staggering demeanor makes it feel like Broken Mile is lost within its own hour and a half of storytelling. While there are shades of something worthwhile in Broken Mile, the final destination is paved with shoddy construction and a wobbly narrative.
Special features on the Blu-ray include Director's Commentary, Actor's Commentary, a Behind the Scenes Featurette, Q&A at Canadian Film Fest 2017, a Full Rehearsal Take, the Official Trailer, an Early Sales Trailer for the film, and a Photo Gallery. The film will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD August 15, 2017.
© 2017 Chris Sawin