This claustrophobic arthouse thriller is the debut feature from British director Suzi Ewing, following her success making short films such as Going Postal. It’s a beautiful and bold attempt to bring an indie aesthetic to a genre filled with schlock. Unfortunately, its plot belongs firmly in the latter world, creating a duality which prevents the drama from ever becoming completely immersive.
10×10’s title refers to the 10’x10’ dimensions of the padded cell located inside a house where Cathy (Kelly Reilly) is held after her capture by Lewis (Luke Evans). He doesn’t want to kill her, or even necessarily to hurt her; he just wants her to tell the truth. Cathy won’t lie down though, and her attempts to escape the room become increasingly desperate – and violent.
The house’s architecture, the surrounding landscape, the film’s strictly limited colour palette and the stripped-back soundtrack of pounding drums and screeching synths lend the piece a distinctly Scandinavian feel. It’s almost incongruous to hear American accents, see Lewis’s Mustang and hear police officers ask for “licence and registration please.” These elements of the movie do absolutely work though.
The problem with the picture lies in its construction and central conceit, from which a number of unlikely plot points stem. Essential events have already taken place by the time the feature begins. They are replaced on centre-stage by events that might, in another movie, comprise only the climactic sequence. The result is a need, for the sake of seeking out a running time, to keep the fight alive even when it seems both more rational, and easier, to end it.
If schlocky fun was 10×10’s goal this would be forgivable, but in a piece where the tone is gritty, where emotions are raw and the aesthetic bleak, it has the effect of removing the audience from the drama. Ultimately, while the film could either have been a Raid-esque one-location fight movie, or Scandi-influenced indie thriller, it attempts to be both. The two conflicting visions fight just as long, hard and bitterly as the picture’s two protagonists.
It must be said that Ryan’s performance is outstanding. She completely embodies the role, equally convincing before and after her character’s volte-face. Unfortunately, this isn’t matched by Evans, who hovers between calculated, determined efficiency and bewildered, blundering breakdown – neither of which is ever quite convincing.
10×10 absolutely demonstrates huge promise for director Suzi Ewing as she draws a glorious performance from her female star and creates an evocatively bleak tone – it’s a shame that the film is just too short of plot for her efforts to prove entirely successful.
10×10 was released on DVD and digitally on demand on 27th August 2018.
Watch the trailer for 10×10 here: