Quarantine Film Festival
Movies About Being Trapped
By Noah Gittell
Many cinemas are closed across the country, while the release of major blockbusters like “No Time to Die” and “Furious 9” has been pushed back to later this year or beyond. It’s a strange time to be a film critic. There are no new releases to review, and the ripple effects of COVID-19 on the film industry have barely begun to be felt. But as a critic, I feel more valued than ever. Dozens of self-quarantined friends have reached out to me for streaming recommendations, so I’m going to do the same for you. For as long as possible, I will use this space to curate themed streaming festivals. Let’s start with some films you’ll have no problem relating to.
It’s the most obvious choice, but it might also be the best. In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic, Jimmy Stewart is confined to a wheelchair in his Manhattan apartment, from which he spies on his neighbors and uncovers a potential murder plot. Or does he? What makes the film hold up over half a century later is its giddy inquiry into a mind perverted by isolation. Stewart is magnificent, trading on his Everyman persona to reveal the darkness hidden just underneath the post-war American male.
In this 2013 thriller, Tom Hardy is Ivan Locke, a construction manager who must drive to a hospital for reasons initially unknown, while juggling personal and professional crises through a series of phone calls. It’s a nearly impossible trick that the film pulls off due to the tidy script by director Steven Knight and the miraculous performance by Hardy as a control freak slowly losing his grip on his life.
What’s smaller than a car? This little-seen 2010 thriller takes place entirely in a coffin, where military contractor Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) has been buried after his convoy was attacked by Iraqi insurgents. It’s a taut thriller that evokes a deeper criticism of the Iraq War than all the left-leaning political dramas put together. Even more importantly, it’s entertaining as hell. Reynolds drops the smirk, and director Rodrigo Cortés stays honest, never leaving the coffin for flashbacks or to get to know his captors. After 95 minutes in a box, your place will probably feel like a palace.
With travel restrictions changing by the day, it is inevitable that someone is going to be stuck semi-permanently at an airport due to some bureaucratic snafu. That’s what happens to Viktor Navorsky (Tom Hanks) in “The Terminal.” Throw out the lame romantic subplot with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ ditzy flight attendant and whatever comment director Steven Spielberg is trying to make about post-9/11 America, and what do you get? Two hours of Tom Hanks having more fun than he did in a decade. That’s more than enough for me.
Things could be worse, you know. You could be pinned against a canyon wall by a boulder and have to cut your own arm off to escape.
The most recent film on this list, this Oscar-nominated 2019 documentary is a first- person account of the siege of Aleppo from female journalist Waad al-Kateab. A stirring display of the realities of war that spares the viewers no carnage, the film also chronicles how Waad’s personal growth continues even in the middle of an all-consuming crisis. As we watch her fall in love, get married, and have children, “For Sama” becomes a rousing argument for hope in the most desperate times.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
First, he’s trapped in a life raft. Then he’s stuck on a deserted island with a nun. Finally, when enemy forces invade, they retreat into a cave. This is life for a grizzled WWII Marine (Robert Mitchum) and a kind, beautiful nun (Deborah Kerr) who get separated from their respective units in this 1957 Technicolor masterpiece by director John Huston. Will love blossom in their island sanctuary? You’ll have to watch to find out, but the respect and quiet dignity they offer each other under trying circumstances should be an inspiration to us all.