MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Jennifer Morrison as WHITE
James Frain as ANDREWS
Josh Stewart as OLDSMAN
Kimberly Elise as BLAU
Jude Ciccolella as GENERAL BLACK
Stephen Rider as DIEGO
Directed by: Matthew Thompson
BY KEVIN CARR
Originally titled “Event 15,” “Alpha Alert” is a tense thriller that plays like a bottle episode of a television series. The story follows three U.S. Army soldiers who are stuck in an elevator together during a terrorist attack. They are all trying to find a way out to get back to their families, and tensions soon run high in the tight space, and things get dangerous. However, the soldiers are also being watched, and the audience is left to wonder if this is really happening, is it in their minds, or are they part of a larger experiment.
Overall, “Alpha Alert” delivers a decent thriller for a smaller direct-to-video scale production. Jennifer Morrison leads the cast as a woman with PTSD. This is a bold choice with a woman as the main lead, particularly for a movie with military undertones.
More over, Morrison’s charcater is not minimized by making her the “typical woman.” Sure, she is concerned about the safety of her family outside in the midst of the terrorist attack, but this is a stress that any of us with children would understand. She’s one of the strongest characters in the movie without being either overly feminized or overly butch.
She is balanced by Josh Stewart, who plays another PTSD sufferer, only with deeper psychological problems. He’s a bit of a two-dimensional character, with relativley little depth to him and his actions. This may not necessarily be unrealistic, but it doesn’t offer as strong of a foil for Morrison to play against, and thus lessens some of the movie’s impact.
The most impressive thing with this film is the scant locations, with most of the action happening within the elevator. I’ve always been a fan of challenging films like this which place the characters in a limited space. This forces the writing and directing to focus on the character rather than flash and action. If the dialogue doesn’t hold up, and if the character interaction doesn’t wash, the whole film can crubmle. It’s a daring position to take – particularly for an independent film that can’t make up the difference elsewhere – and for the most part, “Alpha Alert” manages to come out victorious with this.
As things wind down and more is revealed, the movie moves from psychological thriller to a more mainstream popcorn mentality. That works to a degree, but it is a bit of a disappointing payoff for an otherwise interesting set-up.
The DVD comes with interviews with director Matthew Thompson as well as with the actors Jennifer Morrison, Josh Stewart and Stephen Rider. This is a little slim as far as bonus menus go, and the interviews are simple one-on-one discussion points, but I suspect that falls in line with the overall minimalist approach to the film itself. The only other special feature is a trailer gallery of this and other Lionsgate releases.