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Detour

[…] Christopher Smith has a real talent for playing with the epic; a talent against the tide, in our times.

[…] What strikes us the most in this thriller is its tempo: always pulsating, with an intelligent use of pauses, which are always charged with tension à la Tarantino.

Crime is at the core of this wonderful thriller by Christopher Smith. Paranoia comes before, guilt comes after with the classic theme of hiding corpses. But Detour is also a road movie, aesthetically immersed in the Fifties from California, Nevada, Las Vegas, driving towards the escape into Mexico. Along the fascinating adventure of Harper, a seemingly naive law student, people enter the story like giant legendary figures of cinema: the funny gangster, the violent boss, the exploited blond, the rich step-father, the black cop, the gross friend. Christopher Smith has a real talent for playing with the epic; a talent against the tide, in our times. We are submerged by the generosity of his filmic ideas: every detail is well-finished and intrigues us with its brilliance, thanks also to a consistently dynamic use of the camera as well as the many cinematic quotations, from Hitchcock to Kubrick, which please the film enthusiast.

Regarding its form, the core of Detour is in its peculiar use of the technique of splitting stories. In the end, the play with alternative stories reveals itself to be simply a “detour” that finally returns to the one leading plot. The splitting becomes a device to let the audience discover the one story through many believable detours. This experience is not frustrating, probably because it is balanced by a strong realism. The effect is more one of increasing suspense leading to the impression that another truth could always emerge. For example, it is quite a strong moment when we discover our hero’s big mistake in demonising his step-father. The illusion that was behind the murder suspends the whole story like in a dream.

What strikes us the most in this thriller is its tempo: always pulsating, with an intelligent use of pauses, which are always charged with tension à la Tarantino. The brilliant dialogues and the tremendous acting of the three main characters, played by Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen and Bel Powley, gives the perfect drive to the film. Christopher Smith succeeds in creating a product of refined entertainment, aesthetic pleasure, and intriguing reflections; a combination that is always becoming rarer in cinema today. Despite this more general quality, Detour has a definitely classic flavour.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore

First published: July 13, 2016

Detour | Film | Christopher Smith | UK 2015 | 100’ | Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival | International Competition

Denis-De-Rougement Youth Award at NIFFF 2016

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