This broadcast comes to you from the strange world of lockdown – where all the new cinema releases have been pushed back and we have to rinse Netflix for all it’s worth. Indeed, whilst we are all confined to our homes, a good film can be a great escape from the enclosed feelings of isolation. It’s just a shame we can’t film anything new whilst we are all supposed to stay in one place – or can we? We thought we’d take this opportunity to revisit some amazing movies that have been predominantly shot in one place.
No matter how seriously you’re taking social distancing, being buried alive in a coffin is high up on most people’s list of nightmares. Throw in a terrorist demanding a ransom, sand slowly filtering into the claustrophobic space and an incompetent search team and Buried might just be a depiction of hell.
This intense, oppressive ride sees victim Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) desperately attempting to escape his tomb by playing phone tennis with everyone from the terrorist who buried him, to his wife. Through unusual camera angles and limited lighting, the smallest setting on this list keeps us captivated for the film’s 1.5 hour run time. Plus, with Reynolds being pretty much the only person on screen and the whole film reportedly being shot in just 17 days, it seems like one of the safest films we could create in this current climate – Buried 2 anyone?
It isn’t any surprise that Buried director Rodrigo Cortés cites Alfred Hitchcock as a huge influence on his cinematic style when you consider how Hitchcock mastered the idea of grounding a film in one singular setting. And in the 1948 classic Rope, Hitchcock was not only trying to achieve a film set entirely in a flat in Manhattan, but also made it appear it was filmed in one take as well.
After Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan commit ‘the perfect crime’ by murdering one of their ex-classmates, they bundle his body into a trunk and host a dinner party in the same room. The rest of the film follows the party organically and the proximity of the party guests in the one set – including the victim’s ex-girlfriend and old friend – adds a continuous layer of tension to the film. So next time you’re at a super awkward, super tense dinner party – know it could definitely be worse.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Nothing spells excitement like a film set nearly entirely in a cramped and mundane jury room. Yet despite the commonplace setting, Sidney Lumet’s feature debut 12 Angry Men is a hugely impactful thriller that explores the broad spectrum of human emotion and humanity.
The plot follows the 12 men tasked with deciding the fate of a Puerto Rican youth accused of murdering his abusive father. Initially all twelve want a quick guilty verdict – except for one. This seemingly mundane space becomes a breeding ground of arguments and revelations. With the camera following individual characters around the room, Lumet manages to physically interweave numerous complex stories and character journeys into the one space. What appears initially to be a dull, familiar-looking location transforms through the course of the film into a battleground scattered with the men’s ideals, prejudices and insecurities. Proving again that you don’t need exotic locations to tell a great story.
Rear Window (1954)
The second Hitchcock feature on this list, Rear Window continues to be one of his most highly praised films. As with Rope, Rear Window was filmed exclusively in one location. However, the location budget would have differed vastly with Rear Window’s extensive and elaborate set built to replicate a courtyard of houses reportedly costing the equivalent of $720,000 in today’s currency.
Rather than a singular location limiting the plot, the view from our protagonist’s window affords us the opportunity to glimpse into the lives and stories of multiple characters. The most notable of which is the potential murder that has taken place across the courtyard. By giving us an insight into what’s happening, without ever showing the full picture, the rare setting of Rear Window keeps us gripped right up until the very end.
If we told you Locke was a film where a man who works in construction drives through the night in his car making phone calls – you would be forgiven for thinking it might not be the most exciting film of the last decade. However, it is the fact that this is what Locke is and yet is still steeped in suspense, that makes it such a great film.
One of the reasons Locke manages to hold our attention despite the monotonous setting is the truly engaging performance by Tom Hardy as the title character – the only actor on screen for the duration. Over an hour and a half journey down the motorway, Locke receives calls from many people such as his work colleagues, his wife and kids and…the woman he had an affair with 7 months earlier who has gone into premature labour with his child. The pressure comes at Locke from all sides in the form of these phone calls and creates a pressure-cooker of tension in the interior of the car. It’s incredible it took 1 location and just 8 nights filming to make this awesome movie.
When you think of a sci-fi horror - big budget, ambitious projects like Alien spring to mind set in spaceships and on far-off planets. But despite the 1997 Canadian film Cube being set in an estimated seventeen and a half thousand cubes, it was actually filmed in a singular 14-feet cube (with a few partially built additions) and a budget of only a few hundred thousand dollars.
The cube itself is anything but simple in the movie however, as the five characters try to utilise their individual skills to escape the moving maze of rooms – some of which are prepped to kill the participants inside. With the simple method of changing the wall colours to signify different rooms, the cube feels much less like one set and more like the sprawling maze of the film. Like in Buried, Cube manages to turn a box-like location into an exciting and intimidating movie - without needing to go anywhere.
There we have it – six great, somewhat isolation-friendly movies that were made in one location. Can you think of any other awesome films that have been shot in a similar way? Let us know in the comments below.