Review: ‘The Abandon’

A Gulf War Soldier Is Trapped In A Literal "Mystery Box" In Jason Satterlund’s New Thriller

The Abandon starts with a very intriguing premise. A Gulf War solder Miles (Jonathan Rosenthal) is taking enemy fire in the 1991 war. As all his fellow soldiers are getting picked off one by one, all hope seems lost. He then sees flashes of light overhead. While at first glance it looks like the calvary has come to his aid as he sees flashes of light and he assumes it’s an airstrike to take out Saddam’s army. However, the light gets brighter, and brighter… and brighter, and then the soldier awakens in a sealed room with no knowledge of how he got there. And even worse, he has no knowledge of how to get out of his new predicament.

As Miles starts to explore his new surroundings, he realizes something’s wrong. The laws of physics don’t really apply in the cube-shaped prison he finds himself in. Any given moment gravity rearranges and tosses him from one end of the room to the other. He goes from standing up straight, to then being tossed onto the ceiling, which he is now standing on. His newfound prison goes from extremely hot (to where his sweat is searing on the floor like a burn egg), to extremely cold and ice surrounds the walls. In addition, weird writings appear on the walls out of the blue referencing to abandon all hope (hence the title), but also writings in other languages.

As frustration and paranoia increased for Miles, he receives a call on his sat phone. A woman named Damesy (Tamara Perry) calls him, and it appears she’s in the same predicament too. At first in The Abandon, both Miles and Damsey don’t trust each other. Miles’ solder fight or flight mode kicks in, and Damsey is going stir crazy because she’s an untrained soldier and needs to slowly but surely get her bearings together. In addition to the temperature changing, gravity-defying cube(s) they are both trapped in, the room seems to be getting smaller. This means the two of them have to race against the clock to figure out what the hell is going on for them. Nothing’s worse than being smushed in a room where the walls keep getting closer and closer, just ask Luke, Han, and Leia.

As the two start to work through what’s going on for them, that’s where The Abandon gets interesting. What could at first seem like an Escape Room or Saw knock-off adds time travel, multiverse elements, and possibly even aliens into the mix. After all, Miles is in 1991 and he’s talking through a military sat phone with a woman who’s referencing social media and #hashtag (insert their predicament) while she’s talking to them.

As the film comes to its dramatic conclusion, we the audience finally understand what’s going on. Unfortunately, it’s frustrating as just as The Abandon is getting very good, it abruptly comes to its end, and we don’t really get a concrete resolution as to who or what has put things into motion. While Damsey and Miles share stories about their lives with each other, we don’t really get a chance to fully empathize with either character. For one, when we meet Miles, he’s in full action hero mode and the audience is never given a chance to fully meet him and engage with him as a character. It’s hard to follow him on a hero’s journey when we don’t really know who “he” really is. For Damsey, it’s even more frustrating as she’s simply a voice on the phone. Only until the end of The Abandon do you really get to engage with her. Half the time, she just might be a form of control or some sort of trick. There is the idea that other people are stuck in their own version of cube-shaped prisons. It would have been more interesting if we got to see other people going through the same predicament throughout the film.

However, at the end of the film, we are treated to a very interesting visual display. Hats off to director Jason Satterlund and cinematographer Ray Huang for an awesome technical display in regards to the physics of the cube-shaped alien room. The Abandon does a great job at escalating tension throughout the film as the audience is learning in real-time the events of the film just as the characters are. The visual effects are also very impressive for such a film that’s pretty much shot in a single windowless location, especially towards the end of the film. Overall, The Abandon is a worthy attempt.