An investigation into a government cover-up leads to a network of abandoned train tunnels deep beneath the heart of Sydney. As a journalist and her crew hunt for the story it quickly becomes clear the story is hunting them.
May 19, 2011
Enzo Tedeschi, Julian Harvey
Bel Deliá as Nat
Andy Rodoreda as Pete
Steve Davis as Steve
Once upon a time I was shocked, stupefied, scared and impressed by the inventiveness of the found footage sub-genre. That was once upon a time now long distanced. That was The Blair Witch Project era, The Last Broadcast days. In the years to follow the release of those pictures (now a full decade-plus), the market has become flooded with countless handy-cam pics that tend to recycle the same ideas over and over and over again. It’s somewhat depressing, however, the flipside of this state of affairs is that when an impressive found footage movie does come along, it’s extremely memorable, leaving a major impact on viewers.
After avoiding the film for about a half decade, I recently discovered that Carlo Ledesma’s found footage/mockumentary, The Tunnel is actually an extremely well-assembled movie. It’s well-written, with extremely few plot misfires, it’s extremely well-acted by a group of relative unknowns, and, while some may feel slightly robbed by the final act, the grand showdown/reveal, I found it to be handled perfectly. A few complaints I’ve now read of the picture point to a “weak final reveal” but the truth is, I’d prefer a little bit of ambiguity as opposed to seeing a monster stuffed in front of the camera so much we can pick out every sketchy pixel in the digitally created creature.
The Tunnel doesn’t offer viewers an astoundingly violent, detailed or revealing climax. What it does offer is a believable (only after engaging your suspension of disbelief, of course) conclusion. And it’s creepy… really, really creepy.
The story follows a struggling reporter – in dire need of a career saving story – and a small technical crew who head for the subterranean tunnels of Sydney, Australia. The tunnels, as the government would have the public believe, is entirely abandoned. But research conducted by this crew clearly conflicts with those declarations. The truth is simple: There are a great number of transients who’ve been forced to call the tunnels home. What’s more frightening is the fact that a lot of those transients are going missing without explanation (who would even care to explain the disappearance of society’s black eye, as the Australian’s homeless are generally viewed).
Nat, Pete, Steve and Tangles make their way into the tunnels to obtain proof of the problems occurring directly beneath the streets and citizens of Sydney. And it takes very little exploration to prove the presence of the homeless. Sadly, it also takes very little exploration to prove that there’s something that may not be human murdering the homeless. Once we, the viewer, understand the potential hazards of these tunnels, the ball doesn’t roll, it barrels right at us delivering shocking visuals, taut scenes, terrifying chases and ultimately, well, more death.
That’s where we draw the line on details. And trust me when I tell you that I haven’t spoiled anything. This picture is powerful and unpredictable enough to leave you flabbergasted and rattled.
Hats off go to a stellar cast. My appreciation for these players simply cannot be expressed with simple words – they’re that good. Bel Deliá, who plays Nat, is great. We see she’s desperate to save her career, and we see her descend into a true emotional darkness as she battles to save her career in a lose-lose situation. But Deliá isn’t the only one who shines here. The entire ensemble shines, very, very bright. Luke Arnold is great as Tangles, a spirited soundman. Andy Rodoreda is excellent as Pete, the thinker of the bunch who juggles a number of emotions both in the tunnels and well in advance of arriving in the tunnels. The show stealer, ultimately, is Steve Davis, who plays Steve, dedicated to seeing his team escape the tunnels alive, but not so overzealous in his mission to make absurd mistakes. He responds out of desperation on a number of occasions, but it’s a controlled desperation and he’s always got his wits about him. He never stops thinking about his pals, either. This is an awesome, awesome character that had me with his first fun-loving prank he pulls on his peers. The character is multi-layered, likable and relatable.
You just can’t ask for much better from the acting front.
Here’s the summary, folks: If you avoid found footage because the market has become so oversaturated it borders on lunacy, no one can blame you. But if you choose to bypass The Tunnel because you’ve misjudged it without extending it the chance to impress, you’ve made a mistake. The Tunnel is no doubt one of the strongest (especially from a technical stance) found footage films to be released since The Blair Witch Project breathed a new life in the then-nearly unexplored (there are a few much older sub-genre entries – think of the obvious choice, Cannibal Holocaust) sub-genre. If you passed this one by, hit rewind on life and look into it. This is exactly what qualifies as stellar found footage.