Monolith

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“Here in my car, I feel safest of all…”

As a joke I saw on Facebook went, “With all these self-driving cars, it won’t be long before there’s a country song about your truck leaving you.” The rise of smart vehicles is inevitable, and likely, so are other films like this, which falls somewhere between Christine and 2001. In this case, mother Sandra (Bowden) is driving to see her husband, whom she suspects of cheating on her, with their young child David (played by the two Hodges brothers, whom I’m assuming are twins!) in the back seat. Her car is the state-of-the-art Monolith, equipped with every safety feature imaginable, and then some. But a series of events – a diversion, an encounter with roadkill on the hoof, and Sandra giving David her smartphone as a distraction – lead to a tricky situation. She is stuck on a remote desert road, outside of a car that has now entered its impenetrable “vault mode”, with David trapped in its interior.

It’s not necessarily a bad idea, with the Monolith (voiced by Lang) having a personality that’s somewhere between Siri and GLaDOS from the Portal games. But there are quite a few problems with the execution. Once Sandra is locked out, it’s less “Man vs. Wild” and more “Woman vs. Brick,” as the car is simply sitting there. It isn’t particularly exciting, which is why the script tries to inject various exterior threats, most obviously a feral canine attracted by the roadkill. Though it’s kinda hard to care much, given the heroine’s situation is largely the result of her own poor decisions. I mean, for heavens’ sake, what kind of mother chooses to light up a cigarette, while in the car with her asthmatic child? At that point, being raised by the feral canine and its pack, is probably the kid’s best hope. And don’t even get me started on the finale, which takes ludicrous to a whole new level. [It turns out this car truly is completely indestructible]

There are a few subplots which don’t particularly go anywhere: the whole “husband affair” thing, for example. Or the fact that Sandra used to be the lead singer for a pop group, which seems to be there purely for vaguely regretful thoughts about having settled down to start a family. Neither it, nor the fans she runs into at a gas-station, serve any purpose once we get to the meat of the story. On the plus side, the film looks great, with Utah’s wilderness providing a wonderfully scenic backdrop, and Bowden isn’t bad, as a woman clearly out of her depth and forced to desperate lengths to try and rescue her child. However, the script is at least two rewrites from reaching a point, where the makers should have looked at it and decided to abandon the resulting project altogether as poorly conceived. For in its current in-car-nation (hohoho), there isn’t enough meat on its bones to make it through the road-trip.

Dir: Ivan Silvestrini
Star: Katrina Bowden, Krew + Nixon Hodges, Katherine Kelly Lang

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