Ambitiousness overrides the grievances in Broken Mile. The rogue method of filmmaking, filmed live on Toronto streets and stitched together to resemble a single take, it’s an absorbing effort. Impressively, Broken Mile rarely enters a stage where the camera feels voyeuristic – it’s there, but made invisible through a hectic, bobbing handheld style.
End results from the fractional budget production create a sometimes harrowing thriller, primarily swirling around Shaun (Franceso Filice). His situation – an overdosed girlfriend lies dead on a couch when he wakes up – begins to spiral, as expected, when Shaun refuses to do the obvious thing. It’s a great cinematic gaffe: One conversation could solve everything.
What evolves is a Maury Povich-level tale of baby mommas, ex-girlfriends, and agitated best friends. Broken Mile then becomes a droning chase film, moving between locations with some grace considering the filming circumstances. When at its best, camerawork builds ample tension. A late night, rainy car chase (of sorts) feels uneasy, even harrowing despite the lack of cuts. A camerman sits shotgun, Amy (Caleigh Le Grand) acts convincingly panicked while continually checking her rearview. It’s Hitchcock-ian in tone even without the rest of the famed director’s trickery.
However, the single take stunt poses significant narrative challenges. Being played in real time means sitting through drives around Toronto. Aimless cell phone conversations may break up the lacking disquiet, something to fill the soundtrack other than empty ambiance. Characters walk through an apartment building – at one point in a circle – while looking for someone, butchering the pace. It’s gutsy fun to tackle a project like this, but the end result is less of an experiment in single take cinematography than it is a study on why film necessitates edits.
The rather languid pace aside, all of this credible anxiety finds itself a worthy, even playful coda. Broken Mile, after 80-minutes, self-acknowledges its issue. Merely talking solves problems, not running, a suggestion amplified in Broken Mile’s almost childish climax. It’s less of story of love and suicide than it is one of coming to terms with one’s mistakes – and being a responsible adult. In that sense, Broken Mile works, and the clever camera wizardry employed to reach that conclusion is worth a watch.
Understandable conditions and so-so digital video make a Blu-ray presentation that rarely reaches adequacy. That’s not so much a complaint as a reality. Broken Mile is pockmarked with artifacting and noise, certainly not outside the realm of other micro-budget indie offerings.
Expect banding and fluctuating contrast. Lights look overexposed at times and focus isn’t consistent. Again, these unavoidable problems happen with with this style. Black levels skirt by in spots; in others, they turn brown. Thick color grading tints the images various shades of green and blue, often heavily.
Limited fidelity creeps into the images, if any at all. Resolution looks stunted. Most of Broken Mile appears coarse and with obvious digital markings. It’s not one for videophiles, but does have a contemporary grindhouse aesthetic, rare for digital filmmaking.
Almost too aggressive in its DTS-HD 5.1 presentation, surround use seems unnatural. Voices plant themselves in the rear channels where needed, exaggerated to make sure the location is known. The finale is especially guilty where Caleigh Le Grand’s delivery pops from the left surround with grating fidelity.
Since Broken Mile was shot live, piece of dialog suffer from the city ambiance. A trolley goes by and falls into the line delivery. Oh well. This adds to the reality and no one will question how this was done.
A director’s commentary exposes all of the little tricks and locations during the runtime. The trio of key actors continue their involvement on a second commentary. If that seems like a lot for a small indie outing, it is – and there’s more. One Shot Kills is a documentary almost as long as the film itself, following the production with cast and director interviews. It’s unexpectedly great.
A Q&A session from a film festival and a rehearsal take for one of the early scenes continues the bonus set. Two short films, trailers, and a stills gallery conclude this menu. Kudos to the team for putting together this much supplemental material.
On a side note, Broken Mile is presented on a BD-R.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Clever and daring, the small-time thriller Broken Mile has guts behind its production, even if the single take style tends to slow things down.
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