When nine strangers find themselves in the same elevator car on their way to a Wall Street cocktail party, they have no idea that their evening would be confronted with overt racism, extreme tension and a revenge plot that will put all nine lives in jeopardy.
Such is the premise for Elevator, a new film by Stig Svendesen that is equal parts heavy drama (with layers of social commentary) as it is all out psychological thriller racing to an exploding and unexpected conclusion.
Elevator opens with the obligatory introduction of the characters. We meet the nine individuals in the opening moments of the film that will end up in the elevator cab together. These include the rich millionaire and owner of the building, Henry Barton (John Getz), his granddaughter, the hired comedian (Joey Slotnick), the pregnant office worker (Anita Briem), the Iranian security guard (Waleed Zuaiter), a reporter and her boyfriend, an widow (Shirley Knight) and a robust office worker. Before the elevator doors close to begin our story, most of the nine cast members are given a moment to which to establish their character – George is immediately identified as the asshole, Henry is established as the rich but level-headed VIP etc. – and it is these quirks and traits that will fuel the simple storyline as scripted by Marc Rosenberg (December Boys).
When Barton’s granddaughter (Amanda Pace) tries to antagonize the claustrophobic George by hitting the Emergency Stop button she inadvertently puts all nine lives at peril when a plot to kill Henry Burton with a homemade bomb is established in the wake of the stoppage.
Now, with the nine individuals trapped in the cab just below the 50th floor, an interesting social experiment unfolds where personalities clash in violent confrontations that only further fuels frustrations over the lack of a defined solution by external sources.
Early in the film, one of the characters in Elevator refers to the Alfred Hitchcock film, Lifeboat and no better film reference could be associated with the fate of the nine stranded patrons. In the 1944 classic, survivors of a torpedoed ship share a lifeboat with one of the individuals responsible for the ship’s sinking. Their paranoia and the efforts to survive will fuel their adventure and these same plot traits are easily traceable in Elevator.
One of the best compliments we can give Elevator is that the actions of the characters, both collectively and individually, are presented with a reasonable and plausible approach. The characters don’t just stand around and await their outcome like helpless protagonists in genre horror films. Instead, they react intelligently. They try and escape through an expected hatch in the ceiling or they try to pry open the elevator doors to escape between floors. And although the repeated pushing of the elevator buttons is a futile exercise, no viewer would admit that they wouldn’t try the exact same action over and over and again if confronted with similar circumstances.
There were a lot of the small things that we enjoyed in the film. For instance, we enjoyed how they addressed someone desperately needing to use the washroom if contained for such a long period. And we thoroughly enjoyed the casual banter between characters and how they had cell phones that actually worked and allowed them to communicate with the outside world (take THAT horror films!).
There were minor issues with the film. The rude attendant that spoke over the elevator speakers was a tad outside of a believable character and the length of time it took authorities to reach the elevator was another small plot point that had us scratching our heads.
But those hardly deterred from what was an above average film – one rife with well developed characters and a story that allowed them to expresses.
Although there was the earlier reference to Lifeboat, comparisons will also be inevitable to 2010’s Devil that also featured a group of trapped individuals within an elevator. But where Devil veered off story and introduced and focused on characters outside of the stuck cab, Elevator stays on target and becomes more like 12 Angry Men, well… 12 Angry Men with a bomb strapped to one of them.
The finale of Elevator pays off like a good game of Clue. From the beginning I doubt you could have guessed who was responsible for the bomb and we would not have guessed correctly who would have survived and who would have perished by the end credit roll.