Detour (2013)

detour03Cover 1:  This is the only art at IMDb.  Is dirt ever effective cover art for anything?  Did we learn nothing from Centerfield?  It makes sense once you’ve seen the movie, but it doesn’t get any easier on the eyes.

Cover 2:  Infinitely better, except for one thing.  The poster shows the car wheels-up.  In the movie, the car is clearly wheels-down.  Even on the same poster, just inches below, you can tell by the safety belt that the guy is in an upright car.  I’m no nitpicker, but this is pretty blatant.  The Poseidon Adventure got it right 40 years ago.

That aside, it is a surprisingly good movie mostly following the template from Buried.  I admired the purity of Buried, but the exterior cheats here don’t hurt the narrative.  Not sure they help, but they don’t hurt.

The film starts off so abruptly that I first thought I had accidentally fast-forwarded or picked up from a previous session (although being on Hulu, the absence of an obnoxious, punitive commercial should have tipped me off).

Jackson, an ad man played by Neil Hopkins wakes up in his car with a nosebleed.  He is also disoriented by the fact that there is dirt packed against all the windows.  Obviously being buried, his phone does not work.  For some reason he tries the radio; which, unless The Professor was in the backseat, would not be much help.  Then he tries to start the car, which I just chalk up to panic.

detour04He begins recording himself on the phone, but fortunately this does not turn into a found-footage, hand-held joint.

Despite being a situation very similar to Buried, Detour actually has an edge in suspense.  While the claustrophobia of being buried in a box would be incredible, being in Jackson’s situation is more suspenseful.  True, he has more legroom, overhead lighting, tilt-steering, pleather seats, and a low low APR, but he is also excruciatingly close to the surface.  Or is he?  Should he try to dig himself out, or would that just create a cave-in, killing him immediately?  On the other hand, if you are buried in a box, you’re not going anywhere.  Is hope always a good thing?

Taking inventory of the vehicle, he is able to MacGyver some items to good use.  The Club is used to stop a cave-in and also helps catch brown rainwater which has filtered through the dirt.  He is able to use folding chair legs and a jack to punch a hole to the surface where is can see about a quarter inch of daylight.  Of course with half the movie left, the excitement is short-lived.

The pressure on Jackson grows as the outside pressure on the car causes continual creaks and encroachments by mud and dirt.  Finally he is driven to make an escape attempt.

Of course some of it it far-fetched.  And I’m not entirely sure Neil Hopkins was up to the task.  But it does end up being an enjoyable single-location thriller that is surprisingly easy to empathize with.


  • Neil Hopkins played Charlie’s brother Liam on Lost.
  • There is a big deal made of a crude map he draws in the Owner’s Manual of the route he had been driving.  No idea why.
  • Also don’t get the title.  Their really is no detour.  In fact, Jackson might actually be sitting right on the road he was traveling.  A metaphysical detour, I guess.
  • Kudos on the scene where he determines that he is about 5 degrees off vertical.  Absolutely meaningless in the big picture, but a nice sequence.

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