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Women in distress or held as captives is practically a genre all its own, with a number of recent films in release that have sort of reinvigorated, for lack of a better term, the whole concept. It’s a simple premise, with young, attractive girls facing unimaginable horrors at the hands of maniacs, the stories ranging from straight-up slasher fodder to intense psychological dramas. Films such as Room, Split, Hounds of Love, and Berlin Syndrome to name just a few. If there is to be any redeeming value in these films, it is the strength of the women and the empowerment they might instill.
With Cage, that woman is Gracie Blake (Lucy-Jane Quinlan), a young blonde Seattle-based sex chat line employee who draws the attention a caller named Peter (Patrick Bergin), who says he wants to meet her in person, and that it is in fact urgent that he do so. He is willing to pay big money, and since she is strapped for cash, agrees. Next thing she knows though, she wakes up in a wooden cage, no bigger than a small room, it locked within a warehouse, her leg chained and a week’s supply of food and water beside her. She has access to her Nokia cell-phone (a model that hints of the timeline) that she can use to call anyone she wants, except the police, as he demands. There is a camera watching her every move. As Peter intermittently contacts her as the days pass in isolation, she struggles to figure out where she is and how to survive.
Written and directed Warren Dudley, Cage feels metaphorical, a film almost entirely shot in and around the confined space of the cage and exterior warehouse, the only sound of civilization beyond, the echoes of jet planes from a nearby airport. Gracie’s partner in her job is her boyfriend, with whom she confesses on the phone her situation, but avoids telling her parents, even when a crisis demands she come to their aid. As Peter toys with her over the phone, his a disembodied voice that is calm yet menacing, Gracie is pressed into a horrific corner of vulnerability and helplessness, unable to ply him from his mysterious mission.
Naturally, things are not what they seem, and the build-up is mostly well-done, if not sporadically uneven. There is no sex or actual physical physical, beyond the torments of solitude and slow deprivation of nourishment. An event eventually occurs that links the story to a larger very real-world story that only serves as a means for suspending Gracie longer in her in her prison, a contentious trigger that generates questions the film never answers about Peter’s operation, his motivations and more so, his intention. This lack of knowing about Peter will be a big gap for those who need closure in their movies.
That aside, Quinlan is the whole show here and does good work, convincing throughout. The story does miss a few good opportunities to bring her job into the mix and has a number of logical lapses and emotional manipulations that weaken what is actually a solid twist on the genre, but it’s held together by her terrific performance. Bergin, who is never seen, does some intimidating voicework and is appropriately malevolent as it becomes clear his little project in a cage is losing priority as other developments draw his attention. That in itself is rather chilling.
Cage is a tight little thriller, and while it lacks the greater weight of many others like it, it is compelling and does take the disturbing drama in a new direction, though not quite to the degree it might. Layering more external conflicts upon Grace than what is surely meant to be a message about the internal, this loses much of its potential.
Movie description: Cage is a 2017 thriller about a sex chat operator who makes an arrangement with a client that finds her waking up in a nightmare.
Director(s): Warren Dudley
Actor(s): Patrick Bergin, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Caitlin Thorburn