A heavy downpour, a secluded mansion in the countryside, forbidden sexual activity, and Famke Janssen with a British accent brandishing a shotgun while on horseback – one could easily expect the Netflix thriller Locked In to be an exciting ride after a few glasses of wine. While there are moments where it comes close, particularly when multiple elements listed above are present, it ultimately falls short. The initial absurdity loses its charm by the end, the charmingly unbelievable transforming into a frustrating stretch.
Written by Rowan Joffe, whose adaptation of SJ Watson’s enjoyably nutty thriller Before I Go to Sleep handled a similar balance far more effectively, Locked In also feels as if it’s based on an airport-bought page-turner. There are flashbacks, a potentially unreliable narrator, shifting perspectives, a hidden diary – the same ingredients that Gillian Flynn turned into magic with Gone Girl – but it all amounts to very little here, cruelly fooling us into the expectation of something far twistier. Janssen plays Katherine, an ex-actor who has been involved in an accident that’s led to locked-in syndrome, a puzzle for an inquisitive nurse, played by Anna Friel, to figure out. Katherine’s adopted daughter Lina (Rose Williams, giving her best Alicia Vikander impression) seems to know more than she’s letting on, but who is the real victim and who is the real villain?
In her first feature film, Lebanese director Nour Wazzi cleverly embraces the gothic horror elements of Joffe’s story. She creates a dark and stormy atmosphere in Katherine’s lavish mansion, adding to the whimsical fairytale vibe. The story follows Lina, whose mother dies when she is young, leaving her to be adopted by her wealthy friend Katherine. As they clash over the inheritance from Katherine’s late husband, the plot becomes increasingly absurd but somehow still alluring in the first half of the film. However, as the mystery is solved and the destination becomes clear, the lack of a surprising twist sets this film apart from others in its genre. Janssen’s character also falls short of expectations, as her potential to chew the scenery as an ex-TV star with a shotgun never fully materializes. Friel delivers a strong performance as always, but her role is unfortunately underdeveloped, raising questions about her reason for appearing in the film.
Her appearance here is a more compelling mystery than the one at the film’s centre, which even at a relatively brief 96 minutes feels overstretched and underbaked. Aping the format and tease of a novel that you just can’t bear to put down, Locked In is instead a film you wish you would have stopped far earlier.
The movie Locked In can now be streamed on Netflix.