Four snotty rich kids at a prep school in England want to get out of a field trip to Wales, where they would have to eat "fish paste sandwiches" and be otherwise uncomfortable. They also don't want to get out of the trip by just returning home over the school break. Two are male friends, Mike Steel (Desmond Harrington), son of a rock star, and Geoff Bingham (Laurence Fox), and two are female friends, Elizabeth Dunn (Thora Birch) and Frances Almond Smith (Keira Knightley). Frances and Geoff have had an intimate relationship, although any relationship between them seems very tenuous, and Elizabeth has had a crush on Mike for a long time; Mike was otherwise going out with another girl, but she had just dumped him. One of them knows, or knows someone who knows, the perfect "getaway" spot, secluded and private, just right for promoting an intimate, extended weekend of partying--an old war bunker deep underground in the middle of a forest. The bunker is accessed via a circular, thick steel door, and is lined with thick reinforced concrete. The four end up trapped in the bunker, with the door locked and no way to get out, for at least 10 days. Who locked them in and why? How will they get out? If you're someone who only likes straightforward plots, traditionally happy endings and films depicting "facts" that are close to what you believe to be true about the actual world, you're best advised to avoid The Hole. If you instead do not mind, or even prefer, circuitous, twisted tales with strong fantasy elements (in this case primarily to enable what amounts to a parable) and fairly nihilistic endings, you may find much to love here. Reflecting the film's overall ambiguity, The Hole resides in a gray genre area between thriller, psychological horror and a straight-ahead drama. The first half hour or so is much more straightforward, and for me, the film was cruising along at about an 8 for at least that length of time. But as it progressed and things became much more bizarre and "evil", my score gradually rose, with the extended climax being a firm 10 for me. So my rating on this one is more of an average. The plot, from a screenplay by first time (and only time so far) scripters Ben Court and Caroline Ip, based on a novel by Guy Burt, is unusual for being told primarily from unreliable characters' perspectives. We learn most of the story through the testimony of a victim--Elizabeth, and a primary suspect, Martyn Taylor (Daniel Brocklebank), who may in fact be a friend of Elizabeth's. Their accounts change as the film progresses, often framing different characters as victims and perpetrators, and the bulk of what we see on screen are depictions of these changing accounts. Thus we see some "repeating" material. It's important to show parts of the story again as the supposed facts about the story change. Stemming from this, it's easy to see that the performances are quite good. Most characters undergo subtle alterations for the different instantiations of the story, and the four principals--Birch, Harrington, Fox and Knightley--adeptly transform themselves, aided also by their clothing, hair and makeup. Court and Ip cleverly do not change the scenario as much as you might expect after the first couple variations. It keeps you on your toes as to just who the perpetrator was, but also enables a surprising and in-depth exploration of the psychotic personality and motivation behind the "lock-in"--whoever the perpetrator was (and I certainly won't reveal the film's answer here), they were clearly somewhat insane. We're also led to be skeptical about the material that's relayed from an ostensibly third-person point of view. It's never clear for most events just what is meant to be "objective" and true versus what is still the potential fantasy of the storyteller. Personally, I love that kind of ambiguity. Some others do not like it so much. The Hole is also a bit of an exploration of spoiled kids. All of the main characters are manipulators who are used to getting whatever they want. They all seem to have an attitude that their intellect is far superior to almost every one else, and thus they're entitled to whatever they desire, as well as justified in whatever it takes to get it--that's a classic disposition of many criminals, and not a few business leaders, politicians, Internet geeks and so on. It's notable that when the students' parents appear (which is very seldom), they are distant and mostly dissociated from their offspring, who have come to rule the roost as far as we can tell. The investigators trying to piece together the case come to know this, although they never directly state as much, but the performers give very subtle clues to their complex realizations as the story goes on. We can see them also gradually losing hope that they'll be able to properly sort the events out and reveal the truth. The Hole can be seen as a parable about how far some may go to get what they want, as well as how far co-conspirators may go before they try to divorce themselves from events gone wrong (there are clues throughout the film that other characters had various levels of knowledge and involvement). It's also an exploration of what makes some go as far as they do and what makes conspirators play along. At the same time it comments on the bewilderment of "outsiders" trying to figure out how some horrific event developed. A lot of the answers are appropriately ambiguous. Under the guises of the subtexts, as well as on a more visceral surface level, the film is a great success.
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Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.
February 1, 2020