Thursday, August 16, 2007

Right At Your Door

Chis Gorak | 2006 | 95 min | USA

You can drop a shatterproof plate on the ground a hundred times and never have it break. But it DOES have that sweet spot; like a baby's fontanel, that if hit, will shatter the plate into tiny pieces. Use that plate as a metaphor for your life, and Right At Your Door is about that sweet spot.

The film opens with Brad (CSI Miami's Rory Cochrane), loving husband, up before his wife, Lexi (The West Wing and Howard Stern's Private Parts' Mary McCormack). He makes her her morning latte, and wakes her up for work, just as her alarm goes off. She's a bit cold to him, and you can tell they've had an argument of some sort the night before. So maybe that latte isn't completely motive-free. Still... There's love there, albeit strained that morning.

Brad sees Lexi off to work, and shuts the door as she drives off. Moments later, the radio announces that a series of explosions have been reported downtown. Brad is all ears already, but then it's announced that one of the explosions took place right around where Lexi would probably be. He panics, calls her cell phone, but gets no answer. He steps outside and sees a skyline full of smoke. He jumps in his car to try and find Lexi and bring her home. On his way however, the radio reports that the explosions are believed to have been caused by "dirty bombs" (chemical bombs). Police seal off the area, and send a worried Brad back home with instructions to seal himself into the house, and not to let any of the potentially contaminated air or people in.

Right At Your Door is great "tell-don't-show" filmmaking. Without seeing any of the destruction of the bombs, save for the brief skyline shot, the tension of the opening 10 minutes is built entirely through radio reports, manic camerawork and editing, and good acting. The same can be said of the rest of the movie, but I don't want to give away too much.

What follows is an extremely claustrophobic 80 minutes, wherein Brad's only safe space is in the confines of his home. The only thing keeping him unaffected by the falling ash outside his windows, is the duct tape and flimsy plastic (dry cleaning bags, bubble wrap, shower curtains, etc.) that they and the doors are sealed off with. Without Lexi, he's lost, but at the same time he's, physically trapped. As the film continues, the reality of the situation becomes more and more... real, and Brad's safe space starts to not feel as safe as it did initially.

Save for its Twilight Zone-ish ending (which I didn't really mind, but which reduced the emotional impact of what came before it), Right At Your Door is an extremely effective thriller, with a script rooted in a reality with believable characters, and which preys upon the universal fear of losing all that you love in the world.

Now please pretend I came back to the plate metaphor from the first paragraph. I can't bring myself to actually do it.

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