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Review: A woman on the verge makes a stand in heart-pounding thriller ‘Alone’

Jules Willcox in the movie "Alone."
(Magnet Releasing)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

An above average survival thriller from director John Hyams, “Alone” pits an emotionally vulnerable woman looking for a fresh start against a methodical predator amid some gorgeous Pacific Northwest scenery. Top-tier performances from Jules Willcox and Marc Menchaca provide 98 minutes of heart-pounding diversion.

We meet Willcox’s Jessica in Portland, Ore., as she packs her belongings into a U-Haul trailer and hits the road for points north. Not long after, an incident with a passive-aggressive fellow motorist (Menchaca) leaves Jessica rattled as she checks into a motel for the night.

The pair cross paths in increasingly tense encounters where Menchaca is just creepy enough to trigger Jessica’s fears until the real terror starts. In what is essentially a two-hander, the man challenges and baits his victim and Jessica responds with unforeseen grit. (Anthony Heald is also good in a cameo as a potential good Samaritan.)

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Mattias Olsson’s clever, minimalist script (based on his 2011 Swedish film “Försvunnen”) doles out just enough character and context via phone calls taken and avoided (Mom) to draw us in. Chapters with such titles as “The Road” and “The Rain” hint at Jessica’s evolving mental state.

Hyams (“All Square” and a pair of “Universal Soldier” sequels) allows the story to take its time without lagging, leaning into both the broad expanses of nature and closeups of his actors’ faces. Crisp cinematography by Federico Verardi, taut editing by Scott Roon and Hyams, and measured sound design create an environment where the beam of a flashlight or the snap of a twig can set a new chase in motion as the film steadily builds to a brutal, effectively staged climax.

‘Alone’

Rated: R, for violent content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: Vineland Drive-In, City of Industry and in general release where thetaers are open; also on VOD


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