Movie Review: ‘10x10’ a Tight Abduction Thriller
A stranger stalks and kidnaps a unsuspecting woman before stuffing her in the titular padded room in 10x10, a nifty little thriller from writer Noel Clarke (Kidulthood) and director Suzi Ewing that thrives on the committed performances of its two leads.
Luke Evans is Lewis, the stalker who follows his target to a yoga class before abducting her in a parking lot in a sequence that recalls last year’s Split.
And Kelly Reilly is his victim, Cathy, who finds herself bound with zip ties and thrown on the floor of a soundproof room after putting up a fight to defend herself.
But is she really a victim?
It’s clear early on that there’s more to 10x10 than indicated by the familiar premise, which could be the setup for a horror film or true crime tale.
But with a total lack of backstory - we know nothing about Cathy, presumed to be a florist, or Lewis, who’s high-tech house is recording everything that’s going on - we have little choice but to watch in horror as the abductor torments his victim, who does everything she can to find a way out.
What does he want? For starters, just her name.
For the first 45 minutes of 10x10, we’re in familiar cat-and-mouse thriller territory as the creepy Lewis tries to get Cathy to talk to him, and Cathy tries to find a way out. And it’s clear with every chance she gets to whack him over the head with a flower vase that he’s no master criminal, and she’s more resourceful than he anticipated.
But as you’re screaming at the screen for her to grab the gun you’re also wondering what’s really going on here, and if you should actually be rooting for her to get out.
The second half of 10x10 slowly reveals all with some not-unanticipated twists and turns, but also raises some (perhaps unintended) questions: after developing a relationship with these characters for most of the movie, our feelings about the outcome aren’t as black-and-white as the filmmakers may have intended.
Set on a low-simmer throughout most of the movie, director Ewing rarely mines the material for full-throttle suspense; scenes such as one where Lewis is approached by two policemen are somewhat flatly relayed, and not nearly as nail-biting as they could have been.
But 10x10 thrives during scenes between the two leads, and not just because of the inherent mystery between their characters. Both Evans and Reilly really sink their teeth into this stuff, giving the film a real jolt of tension during their scenes, and elevating what may otherwise be a silly thriller into an intense experience.
Reilly, star of the recent Prague-shot Britannia, is especially good as the (perhaps not-so-innocent) victim. Given a role akin to Ben Kingsley’s in Death and the Maiden, she’s so effective here that I stuck on her side despite that machinations of the screenplay.
10x10 is never fully engaging despite all its twists and turns, and pales next to that Polanski thriller, but it’s a nifty little ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome.