Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) awakens to find himself locked in the boot of a car with nothing but a mobile phone, radio transmitter, illuminated digital countdown clock and an overwhelming lack of knowledge as to the reasons behind his sudden imprisonment. However, as time passes, it becomes clear that this nightmarish scenario is more than simply a hostage situation. Jeremy is an important target – a Secret Service agent who knows the whereabouts of the President’s secret bunker.
Boasting a conceit eerily similar to Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried, Brake fails to break away from its shaky, see-through narrative and never seems to recover until, without revealing too much, the end, which will either be praised or condemned by viewers who have commendably reached that point. Until then, however, we’re led along on the ride of Jeremy’s life, as he’s forced to face his fears, use his smarts to outwit his captives and discover what a true, trustworthy human being he actually is.
The script, penned by Timothy Mannion, is as predictable and uninspired as thrillers come, falling foul to all kinds of clichés and the overdone tropes that reflect a formula that has become almost entirely redundant of spontaneity and notability. At no point is Jeremy rendered even an inch of humility, making the fact that the entire film – never mind the lives of the other hostages and potentially everyone living in Washington D.C. itself – rests upon his shoulders increasingly less worthy of the audience’s continued investment.
Even the various twists and turns that pop up over Brake’s favourably curtailed running time, whether it be Jeremy’s initial reveal as a Secret Service agent or the fact he’d much rather spend time clearing up personal matters than finding a way to escape before his time is up, merely feel like try-hard attempts to keep the baying audience on its toes. It’s as if Mannion is more interested in churning out mindless drivel than using his brains and talents to establish a tantalising and genuinely entertaining thrill-ride that breaks away from formalities.
Gabe Torres’ direction doesn’t do much to help matters, as the setting of the car, mostly through the way it’s shot and coated in a scratchy, protruding texture, focuses the audience’s attention and can almost instantaneously be picked apart and revealed for the counterfeit setup it is – something that both ruins and sustains the final reveal in equal measures. Sound helps in some ways to refocus attention and forcefulness, but, through what has already badly transpired, stumbles and quickly fizzles out.
Brake’s only redeeming feature – beside the fact that it thrills to a minor extent if one is completely oblivious to zoning in on the cracks, voluntarily or otherwise – lies in Dorff’s performance. Unquestionably committed, Dorff projects the authentic fear and hostility of a man not only suddenly placed within a life or death situation, but also one who has to decide whether or not to break his loyalty to the US Government. Clearly, there’s a worthwhile core to Brake’s existence, but one that’s buried under a swathe of inconsistencies and deadening banalities.