Movie Review: “Default” Is A Tense, Superior Thriller


Review by James McDonald

A news crew is taken hostage on an airplane set to take off from the Seychelles.

After wrapping up a travel program in the Seychelles for his network, veteran correspondent Frank Saltzman (Greg Callahan), along with his small crew of four, are traveling back to the U.S. on a private plane when they are taken hostage by four gunmen and the plane is immediately grounded. Initially assuming that they are terrorists operating in the name of their chosen religion, they force Frank and his crew to set up an interview whereby he will ask the leader of the group, a set of predetermined questions and if the hostages are to live, then Frank’s network will air the interview later that same day.

Apparently, a few weeks earlier, Frank’s network aired a segment about a group of Somali pirates who attacked an American ship and as a result, most of them were killed by U.S. troops, with the exception of a young teenage boy who was brought back to America and put on trial. The gunmen insist that no one will come to harm if they do what they are told but of course, Frank being the seasoned pro, quickly butts heads with the group’s leader and refuses to believe that they are just after money and insists that he tell him his real motives. Gradually, he comes to respect the elder reporter and in a quiet moment, informs him of his true intentions.

Like so many movies today, “Default” utilizes the hand-held camera approach but here, it actually works. Given the fact that this is a news crew with several different cameras, the movie cuts flawlessly between the various characters and the network that is covering the hijacking from the outside. Director Simon Brand, who started out in the business directing music videos for Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin and Shakira to name but a few, creates a claustrophobic atmosphere where nothing and nobody is off limits. Because he uses lesser known actors, we have no idea as to who is going to be executed or who is going to live.

Granted, if there were big names attached, more than likely the audience could predict who might die but employing actors who are not as well known gives the director and indeed the film, the advantage it needs in order to successfully tell the story without giving any hints away. The cast do good work given their confined location and the film tries to elicit sympathy for the gunmen because there is obviously more to their story than the one we can see but in the end, the result is the same: it doesn’t matter if terrorists are holding hostages for religious beliefs of simply money, because, as one character states, “Fear is fear” and this movie does an excellent job in demonstrating exactly that.

In theaters October 17th

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James McDonald
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