Film review: ’Alone’ rises above the female captive formula

Thriller keeps the tension high, with a chase through Oregon forests


“Alone” sounds like a lot of other movies that aren’t very good and border on torture-porn. Thankfully, the intended female victim in this tale isn’t in the mood.

The story centers on Jessica, who’s packing up a U-Haul in Portland, Ore., and heading north after an apparent tragedy or breakup with her husband or significant other. It’s never explained, and much of Jessica’s past is a mystery.

Her U-Haul is hitched to her vintage Volvo station wagon, and she is taking the back roads through the verdant forests of Oregon — or at least what were once the verdant forests of Oregon. Along one of the narrow roads, she ends up behind an SUV that’s going awfully slow, and when she tries to pass, the driver of the SUV speeds up, nearly causing an accident. Jessica takes a deep breath, takes a side road and ends up a roadside motel.

The SUV driver ends up there, too. Uh-oh. Yeah, it’s a stalker situation, but Jessica doesn’t quite want to alarm anyone, so she doesn’t call the law.

The driver knocks on her car window the next morning, offers a lame excuse for the events a day earlier, and Jessica drives on. But so does he. He’s played by Marc Menchaca, and has an eerie, mustachioed look. He isn’t named, until the last of the film.

Before long, he has blocked the road that Jessica is on, breaks her window with a tire iron and she wakes up in a locked cellar, the captive of the SUV driver.

As mentioned earlier, Jessica isn’t going down this well-worn path of victimhood, and she’s on the run, barefoot, from her captor.

She jumps in a river, survives in the rain, lives through the night and finally meets a hunter (Anthony Heald) who might be her savior. All the while, the SUV driver is on her trail.

“Alone” would be trite if it weren’t so expertly directed by John Hyams, with a screenplay by Mattias Olsson. Olsson wrote the screenplay for the 2011 Swedish thriller “Torsvunnen,” and “Alone” is adapted from that. From most accounts, “Alone” is a dramatic step up.

Part of the movie’s success lies with the performance by Jules Wilcox as Jessica. She’s probably best known for her role on the Netflix series “Bloodline,” but you’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the coming years, if “Alone” is any indication. She gives Jessica a sympathetic steeliness that is reminiscent of Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs.”

In Austin, “Alone” will be available at the Southwest Theaters Lake Creek 7 location as well as on demand. 13729 Research Blvd., Suite 1500.

Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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