The Abandon Image

The Abandon

By Alex Saveliev | August 17, 2022

CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Jason Satterlund’s claustrophobic sci-fi thriller The Abandon hurtles along like a speeding bullet. Considering its single setting, no-frills plot requiring only one actor (well, and a half), and the fact that it blatantly evokes several cult classics of the genre, that’s quite the compliment. However, the director and screenwriter Dwain Worrell don’t just overcome these potential obstacles, instead, they use them to their advantage.

The confined location amplifies the suffocating tension; the central protagonist compels and intrigues, and the obvious allusions to Cube and Buried only accentuate the fact that every story has already been told – it’s all in how you tell it. While not quite one-upping those genre staples, the film subverts expectations with its twists and turns, its tantalizing ambiguity, but also – and perhaps mainly – its pulsating heart.

From the get-go, The Abandon presses the pedal to the metal, thrusting viewers into the midst of an intense battle in Iraq. After losing his partner, soldier Miles Willis (Jonathan Rosenthal) finds himself seriously wounded. He notices two odd flares in the night sky. Then a blinding flash of light transports our hero to what seems like an alien cube with the words “abandon all hope” scribbled on its gray panels. The cube appears to test the slowly-bleeding-out Miles with severe temperature and gravity changes, “weird noises, [like] grinding and machinery,” and a light with no source. To make matters worse, the walls begin to gradually close in on the young man.

“…a blinding flash of light transports our hero to what seems like an alien cube…”

Good thing he’s connected, via his satellite phone, to Damsey (Tamara Perry), another victim of what they call the “washing machine room.” Although suspicions arise between them, they have no choice but to trust each other. “It’s gonna keep getting smaller,” Damsey says. “You know that I’m right.” Satterlund keeps applying bold, unconventional touches to keep viewers on seat edges: Latin inscriptions and math problems appear on the wall; revelations involving the space-time continuum dawn on our heroes, but ultimately, it’s up to Miles to face his demons in order to try to figure his way out.

One can almost see the filmmaker rubbing his hands in pleasure at the challenge of filming this all in one room. It’s not just the ingenious camera angles he and his cinematographer Geoff Koch set up – Satterlund fries, freezes, and spins his set. Sound also plays a crucial part throughout The Abandon. From the deathlike silence to the glass-shattering torture the hero experiences, the sound design is stellar. Light is just as important, agonizingly constant and pale at first, then jarring with its vacillations between blinding brightness and vacuum darkness.

Rosenthal deserves major plaudits. He’s in every shot, the merciless camera catching all of his emotions – total panic, vulnerability, stoicism, gentle humor, warmth. The actor provides a perfectly-calibrated performance. Perry’s task isn’t much easier – to convey an entire personality using only her voice – but she pulls it off with aplomb. Together they emphasize the themes of the importance of perseverance and human connection in the direst of times.

The Abandon is not all perfect. How the two protagonists turn out to be such brilliant mathematicians (and the equation itself) remains rather dubious. Moreover, the open ending could easily frustrate the hell out of invested viewers. But one thing remains certain: Satterlund and his crew know how to drop jaws. The plot may have been told before, but certainly never quite like this.

The Abandon screened at the 2022 Cinequest Film Festival.

The Abandon (2022)

Directed: Jason Satterlund

Written: Dwain Worrell

Starring: Jonathan Rosenthal, Tamara Perry, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Abandon Image

"…the plot may have been told before, but certainly never quite like this."

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