Released in 2011, from writer and director Aimee Lagos (“No Good Deed”), a graduate of Washington University, comes American drama / thriller movie “96 Minutes”.
Over the course of the film (which runs for just 93 minutes) we witness four young people being affected when a single act of violence slams their lives together for a 96 minute period.
Based on the real life events in 1995 which saw two teenage cousins from St. Louis, Missouri, carjacking two Washington University coeds from outside a Mexican restaurant in the Dogtown area of the city.
In the film we are introduced to the four main characters one by one. Dre (Evan Ross – “The Hunger Games : Mockingjay”, “Just Before I Go”) is an African-American student nearing graduation, avoiding getting sucked into the gang lifestyle, working for his uncle Duane (David Oyelowo – “Selma”, “A Most Violent Year”) and trying to set a good example to his 16 year-old cousin.
Carley (Brittany Snow – “Syrup”, “Pitch Perfect”) is also about to graduate and struggling to persuade her father to attend her graduation ceremony as he is prioritising a business meeting.
Lena (Christian Serratos – “Twilight Saga”, “The Walking Dead”) wakes up with her boyfriend with whom she obviously has issues – leading her to smash her mobile phone against the wall when he leaves the room after a tense discussion.
Dre’s cousin is Kevin (J. Michael Trautmann – “Treehouse”, “A Resurrection”), a white teenager who is disturbed by the domestic abuse he witnesses his mother suffer from her boyfriend at home and has a passion for gangsta rap and violent video games. Kevin wants to join the local street gang and is told that he will be able to if he steals his “daddy’s car”.
We are then thrust into the melting pot that is Carley’s SUV. Carley and Lena had met up for dinner and then found themselves in trouble when Kevin attempted to steal Carley’s SUV. The four spend the majority of the movie in the vehicle, with Lena lying seriously wounded, interspersed with flashbacks to the events that led up to the situation we see unfolding.
The four leads play their parts admirably. Snow gets more to do than Serratos since the latter’s character spends a lot of the movie effectively out of action, but the best performances are those of Ross and Trautmann. Ross depicts the inner turmoil that his character is experiencing as he sees his future disappearing and Trautmann is thoroughly obnoxious of the troubled Kevin with barely controlled rage at the world around him and practically no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The fact that this is based on a true story is what makes it so chilling, really. The film can be a little disorientating as the story moves backwards and forwards in time, but when the action is centred within the SUV the tension is compelling and you cannot help but feel involved.
A tragic and chilling story, and because it is based on real events it is all the more effective as a sad reflection of how parts of our society have become. Recommended viewing…