Room 106

Directed by Alexander McKee  |  Review by Moumita Deb

Abduction thrillers often lull us into a sense of safety in the opening sequences, showing the normal rhythms of life that will soon be shattered. Alexander McKee’s Room 106 does not go that route. This opening is so heavy-handed that it’s impressive that the film doesn’t instantly collapse under its symbolic weight. Aspects of “Room 106” are effective, but for the most part, it’s rather ridiculous (even though it wants to be taken super-seriously), and there’s an overwrought quality to much of the acting. Yet justified to its plot structure, Director gives us a couple of genuinely suspenseful scenes.

The interiors of the room seem gloomy and cramped, with walls cutting into the frame and characters coming in and out of sight: a visual correlative for the idea of people cut off from one another. But as the plot goes into high gear and we get other avenues of exploration of conflicting thoughts, basement lairs and a glimpse of vast conspiracies, “Room 106” wears out its welcome.

Incendies, a mysterious and involved tale that I thought worked as a kind of prose-poem about memory and identity, and about how violence and bloodshed are the creator/parents of a traumatized future – but I wondered about its straightforward believability as drama. Now Mckee has made Room 106, a long, brutal and occasionally gripping crime drama.

It aspires to something more than pulp, with the pluralities of meaning in the otherwise insignificant yet contextual title. The film gestures at agonized questions of guilt, crime and punishment. But what exactly is the movie saying about all this? It could be that torture is always morally culpable, that it never elicits anything of value – or it could be that it is dirty work that gets results. There is a kind of ambiguity about righteous violence in Room 106 and how exactly we are supposed to feel about it. The film finally affects a deceptive blend of condemnation and sentimental exoneration. Perhaps more disconcerting is the way the screenplay has to strain and squirm to tie up all its loose ends, and the film will try your patience with some of the later throwaway revelations. A certain dour realist vigor keeps the nightmare alive.

The wages of sin, guilt, vengeance and redemption weigh heavy on the characters of Room 106, a spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller with a complex moral center that marks a grand-slam debut for the gifted director Mckee — powered by an unusually rich, twisty script and glimpses of some career-best performances from the promising cast.

The film sustains an almost unbearable tension for 7 minutes and 8 seconds of screen time, satisfying as both a high-end genre exercise and a searing adult drama, true to its genre. Fully deserving of mention in the same breath as some of the most gruesome Hollywood releases, Room 106 may prove too intense for some viewers but should ride strong reviews and word of mouth to above-average R-rated returns. It immediately enters the ring as an awards-season heavyweight.

“Room 106 ” echoes in its fragmented central mystery and its theme of the good and ill transmitted from the oppressor to its victim. But in every respect, this film finds Mckee working on his biggest and most ambitious canvas to date and, perhaps most impressive, flawlessly catching the moods. The movie announces it’s measured, quietly confident tone right from the opening scene.

With each successive revelation, the brilliant script satisfies the necessary machinations while always flowing effortlessly from his vivid, multi-dimensional characters. That delicate balance extends to the filmmaker’s excellent direction, which maintains a vise-like grip on the viewer without ever resorting to cheap shock effects or compromising the integrity of the human drama. Yet this is also a film that breathes, that knows it has the audience in its palm and can take time out for the kind of incidental, character-deepening scenes that usually end up on the cutting-room floor. In less assured hands, a movie called “Room 106” with a plot like this would be an invitation to disaster, heavy on self-conscious allegory, symbolism and moral debate. In this film nothing is belabored, the thorny questions of right and wrong bubbling under the surface without ever being declaimed.

It sucks some of the joy out of the film and doesn’t fulfil its apparent goal of trying to trick the audience into thinking they know whilst still managing to reveal far too much of the intriguing action at the centre of the sequence that looks just like one of the lit panels that make up the trap of this iconic low budget spine-chiller.

 

Moumita-Deb

Moumita is a Kolkata based independent filmmaker and film critic. She holds a post- graduation degree in English literature from Jadavpur University. Reading novels of a wide range of authors of all genres from classic to contemporary has always been Moumita’s passion and calling. She also takes a strong liking in playing the Spanish guitar & has participated in quite a few concerts. Moumita has done her certification course in Cinematography, Video Editing and Filmmaking