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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/07/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 86 mins

Intensely claustrophobic, impeccably directed drama, featuring excellent performances by all three leads.

It’s astonishing to realise that Tape was apparently knocked off during a break in the filming of director Linklater’s animated think-fest Waking Life. Both films were finished at around the same time and both featured in the London Film Festival last November, where they were critically acclaimed.

However, now that Tape has finally gotten a decent release, its associative distance from Waking Life has probably worked in its favour, and the result is a grippingly tense three-hander –based on a single-set play by Stephen Belber- that’s extremely rewarding.

Hometown Premiere

Robert Sean Leonard plays John, a filmmaker returning to his hometown for the premiere of his latest film. On his way to the screening, he receives a message from Vince (Ethan Hawke), his old friend from high school, asking him to meet him in a motel room.

Initially, John thinks Vince –who’s now an embittered slacker-type- just wants to reminisce or maybe borrow money, but it soon turns out that he has a much darker agenda, involving John’s ex-girlfriend Amy (Thurman).

Terrific Leads

Tape is definitely one of those films where the more you know about the plot going in, the less you’ll enjoy it. Suffice it to say, then, that the performances by all three leads are terrific, particularly Hawke, who turns in his best performance since Dead Poet’s Society (which also, coincidentally, co-starred Leonard), managing to both create sympathy for his character and unsettle the audience at the same time.

The script is sharply observed and pulls off subtle shifts in both sympathy and tone, meaning that you’re never quite sure whom to trust. Though the film obviously betrays its stage origins, the combined use of digital video and the single set actually adds to the claustrophobic intensity of the piece, highlighted by cameraman Maryse Alberti’s frequent use of extreme close-ups.

There’s a lot to enjoy here – the screenplay crackles with good lines and there are moments that are unbearably tense. It’s also extremely well cast – the fact that Hawke’s real-life wife Thurman plays Amy gives it a certain extra frisson…

In short, this is an enjoyably tense little drama that’ll have you thinking twice before attending that FriendsReunited reunion. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 22/01/2020 15:41

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