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Claustrophobia at its finest, Gabe Torres’ Brake stuffs audiences into the trunk of a car, along with a kicking and screaming Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff), for nearly the entire duration of the 88-minute film.

Reins opens his eyes to discover the red glow of a digital clock, with 3:25 minutes remaining on the ticking countdown, through the plexiglass walls of the box that he’s trapped within. Disoriented and panicky, Reins assumes he is there due to a gambling debt. Not until he begins speaking into a provided transistor radio does he discover there is a fellow prisoner, a Foreign Service Officer, similarly trapped in a nearby trunk. When it’s clear that something crucial occurs every time the countdown reaches zero (and is then reset), they wearily band together, trying to talk each new experience out as a team.

Another countdown expires, and a new segment begins when a postcard of the White House that reads, “Give us the location of Roulette,” is passed through a tube connecting Reins’ coffin-like box to the outside world. It is now obvious to both the audience and revealed Secret Service Agent Jeremy Reins, that this is in fact part of a terrorist attack and his captors are seeking the location of the president of the United States, information that only he and a few other fellow secret service agents possess.

Suspenseful at times, the thriller quickly becomes a game of clock watching as scenes become locked into real time. The B-Story comes into play when Reins is given his cell phone in order to speak to his estranged wife, played by Grey’s Anatomy’s Chyler Leigh, who, as one can easily predict, is soon taken hostage herself to increase the pressure on Reins to divulge the whereabouts of the hidden underground bunker that will soon house the First Family and Vice President after the terrorists unleash their first round of attacks.

When neither the threat of the execution of his estranged wife or the wife and kids of his fellow prisoner suffices to force Reins into spilling the beans, things become chaotic as final measures are taken against Reins in a last-ditch effort by the terrorists.

Without giving too much away, the final few minutes of Brake may just prove worth the stifling 80 that come before.

127 Hours seems to be one of the few films in recent memory that has pulled off the stuck-between-rock-and-hard-place genre (of which Brake is the latest entry). Other films comparable in plot, such as Ryan ReynoldsBuried and Adrien Brody’s Wrecked, manage to be similarly suffocating with little redeeming value. Filmmakers thinking of venturing into the niche might want to take some lessons from Danny Boyle, lest they smother audiences by forcing them to sit through an asphyxiating adventure.

Director: Gabe Torres
Writer: Timothy Mannion
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh, JR Bourne, Tom Berenger
Release Date: Mar. 23, 2012

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