Isn’t it fun to compare a movie with other films? And yet so unfair. If I were to tell you that director Sean Perry’s film Dash is a combination of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, as reimagined by the Coen Brothers, would that alone make you want to go see it?
No? Well, then you’d really be missing out. I guess I better finish the review.
The premise is fairly simple. This is a dashcam video of a night in the life of a LA rideshare driver. The company he works for shares the name of the movie; Dash. And to more than one extent, we see that we’re dashing towards the disastrous culmination a number of bad decisions in this driver’s life.
Understandably, the conceit here is that this film is shot in one-take. Shot from one fixed point of view. And follows one character. And that all is revealed (or perhaps unraveled) in the course of the films actual one hour and forty-five minutes. “Yes folks, you’re watching this live!” You are strapped to the hood of this car, and like a rush-hour driver passing a huge accident on the freeway, you cannot look away.
Luckily, it’s an entertaining freeway accident.
It’s always interesting that, watching a film, we can empathise with someone who in any real world context we would dismiss as simply a waste of our time, perhaps even dangerous to be around. That certainly is the case here. And yet, we’re drawn into his problematic life. Perhaps it’s simply the level to which he is overwhelmed by the converging consequences of his infidelities, lies, and criminal activities. We can’t help but put ourselves into his place, trying to figure a way out, a solution to the life which seems destined to go up in a ball of fire.
Milly, our driver, is also balancing a continual series of phone calls, instant messages, and rideshare requests. Director, screenwriter, and cinematographer Perry has layered these as they occur, graphically distinct and centered on the screen. Some passenger’s vignettes mostly play out without spoken lines, as is particularly true with two phone-obsessed young women. They discuss their night so far, intestinal distress, and the relative attractiveness of the driver over texts and giggles. Placing modern communication on top of visual reality is getting to be more common in film. But Dash’s use is wildly creative and a virtual “third character on the third wall” of the film.
I have to mention that Alexander Molina, who plays the driver, is exhaustingly amazing. Without spoiling major plot points, we go from watching him comically flounder out of his depth, to tragically spending a good portion of the film dealing with the physical ramifications of a particularly bad mistake. Totally convincing physical acting, particularly over such an extended period, and his reactions to the general craziness are spot on. An excellent performance.
Still, you might dismiss this film as “anyone with a dashcam could make that.” That is until you again revisit the fact that this is all done in real time and think about what that means. Every event had to be painstakingly set up beforehand. Logistics established in different parts of the city, actors in place in new locations to get into and out of the car. Even a simulated fender-bender needed to be ready to go before filming started. The fact that Perry handles this all so seamlessly as to make us forget the difficulty here is a considerable achievement.
Remarkably, while everything seems destined to go sideways in predictable ways, there are still surprises in store. But Dash doesn’t skirt it’s collisions with destiny. There is no “easy way out” no deus ex machina that will put things right. But when things do blow up they do so in in unexpected ways.
We are certainly entertained. We still would not have wanted to be behind the wheel in this particular car, but sitting in on the ride was refreshingly inventive and entertaining. And if you Uber home after the show you could understandably have some new concerns about the journey.
Note: I meant to include the excellent guilty pleasure HBO Taxicab Confessions in here somewhere because it seemed right, but I didn’t, and I’m not going to work it in now. So no need to comment that I missed that obvious connection.
August 18, 2022
San Jose California