Friday, January 27, 2006

Right at Your Door

2006 Sundance Film Festival
★ ★ ★
The 9-11 experience has given new relevancy to movies about terrorist attacks. In Right at Your Door, writer and first-time director Chris Gorak shows the impact of a sudden attack in Los Angeles. Similar to Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, Gorak chooses to focus exclusively on the impact of the events on one couple—Lexi, a professional woman who works downtown (Mary McCormack) and her husband Brad (Rory Cochrane), an out-of-work musician.

Right at Your Door adeptly explores the human implications of a scenario that seems all too plausible in today's world. At the onset of the attack there is fear, panic, despair, disorientation and poor judgment. However, as the reality of the situation settles in, a survival instinct emerges, a certain calculating rationality. And finally, Brad and Lexi must face the many moral conflicts that can plague us in times of limited resources, dangerous conditions and life and death decisions. Layered on all of this are further apprehensions and uncertainties that must be dissected: Who can you trust? What does the government know? Whose advice do you listen to? What do we tell our friends and family?

It is these issues that make viewing Right at Your Door a powerful and troubling experience. We see a little bit of ourselves in these characters, and it is easy to wonder how we would react in the face of these tragic circumstances. This movie will come back to you in moments of quiet contemplation.

Gorak has made a very good movie, especially given his very limited budget and complete lack of directing experience (he been a production assistant on another movie, but has never directed anything before). I particularly like his decision not to provide any information about where the attacks came from. It's probably not all that realistic, as surely the media would be engage in non-stop speculation, but it served to focus the emotions on those things that really mattered to the characters.

Interesting tidbit from the Sundance Q&A: Some of the scenes of smoke rising over the skyline used actual footage from the bombing in Iraq.


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