Beyond the Reach
Starring Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine,
Pocket thrillers are what I call these low budget, high impact star vehicles; Often thrillers that isolate two characters that do a lot of damage. Joining other pocket thrillers like Locke, Phone Booth, Buried or even Gravity, Beyond the Reach uses wide open spaces in New Mexico for terrifying effect. 70 year old Michael Douglas is quite the adversary in the film playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with Jeremy Irvine (War Horse). This marks French director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti first English language film. Focusing on only two characters, the unforgiving location in New Mexico is likely the biggest star here and the cinematographer never misses a chance to remind us of the heat and desolation with stunning wide shots.
Financial insurance millionaire Madec (Douglas) has hired local deputy Ben (Irving) to take him out big game hunting off the road in New Mexico’s scorching 120 degree heat. Flaunting and bragging about his wealth with a $500k Mercedes all-terrain vehicle, “the only one in the world,”; the tension begins before the hunting. Ben quickly learns Madec paid off the sheriff when he asks for permits, and is met with a wad of cash the boy can’t refuse. Before the sun even hits the triple digits, Madec’s trigger happy finger shoots a desert dweller instead of an animal and when Ben refuses to go along with the cover up he finds himself running through the desert in his underwear trying to outsmart the tycoon.
The beautiful landscapes and natural light almost feel like a Looney Tunes skit gone horribly wrong.
Even if you didn’t know this was a thriller going in, Douglas makes this guy so uncomfortable you just wait for something to go wrong. The script can easily be called out on numerous plot devices, but like most thrillers and horror movies, getting characters into specific situations is difficult. Ben has no clothes, water, shoes, radio or anything to fight back with except his knowledge of the land. More than once the film ventures into moments worthy of an eye roll, but takes itself seriously enough that the stakes remain high. Madec can’t kill Ben, because he wants his death to appear natural, this makes things interesting and the script keeps finding ways to have to two interact with each other across the desert.
Grusome foot injuries and burnt skin makeup will make even the palest viewer thirst for aloe vera. The beautiful landscapes and natural light almost feel like a Looney Tunes skit gone horribly wrong. The original score compels us to empathize with our young protagonist even though the film doesn’t waste much time in character development. Beyond the Reach is at its worst when Douglas’s character spends time watching and taunting his prey, it’s those moments the audience has time to ask internal questions about why there is an old man living in the desert alone planting sling shots and water jugs so Ben actually has a chance at survival. Why would a millionaire doing business in Bejing visit a Podunk town to shoot animals. Then all of a sudden the race continues until the script ends in a very greedy place.
Shot full of holes, Beyond the Reach is still a decent cat & mouse thriller.