The Hole review by Mike Long

While most every facet of making a movie offers a number of challenges, I would have to say that one of the hardest parts would be marketing a film which isn't a sequel or a vehicle for a major star. How do you make the audience interested in the film? The British film The Hole has been advertised as a movie in which a group of students get trapped in a hole and who must fight for survival. As it turns out, that's not really what the movie is concerned with. The movie is much deeper than that (pardon the pun) and offers much more to the viewer.

The Hole is set at an exclusive British private school. The students are to go on a trip to Wales for the weekend. For students, Elizabeth (Thora Birch), Mike (Desmond Harrington), Frankie (Keira Knightley), and Geoff (Laurence Bingham), decide to ditch the trip and have their own party. Elizabeth's friend Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank), who is viewed by the others as a weird loser, knows of an old bomb-shelter near the school and convinces them that this would be a great place to spend the weekend. Elizabeth, Mike, Frankie, and Geoff enter the hole for their soiree. However, when they decide to leave, they find that the door is locked and that there's no other way out. As the days wear on and the supplies run low, the group becomes desperate to survive.

That synopsis seems like a fairly straight-forward description of the film and it's little-more than an expanded description from the DVD box. But, this isn't what the movie is about. The film opens with a haggard and disheveled Thora Birch emerging from the forest and staggering to the school. Having read the DVD box (or my synopsis), we know that she's just left the hole. So, from the opening shot, we know that the door to the hole does get opened. The story in The Hole is told through Elizabeth's eyes in flashback, and we slowly learn how the students got into the hole, what they did when they were down there, and who survived the ordeal. Elizabeth is interrogated by Dr. Horwood (Embeth Davidtz), who attempts to discover the whole story about what happened in the hole and who was responsible from locking the group in there. It's not until the very end that we learn the truth about what happened in that frightful place.

The Hole is based on a novel and the film was adapted by first-time screenwriters Ben Court & Caroline Ip. I'm not familiar with the book, so I don't know if it follows this unusual narrative pattern or not, but telling the story in this way truly saves the film and makes it very interesting. If this movie had been what the advertising described, that is, a standard thriller about a group of kids who are trapped in a hole. That movie may have contained some surprises, but it probably wouldn't have shown us anything that we hadn't seen before. By taking the focus aware from the ordeal of the group and placing it on a search for the truth, The Hole becomes a much more original film. The structure of the film lies somewhere between Rashomon and Memento, as the story starts after the main event has taken place and the proceedings are examined from at least three points of view (although I'm not saying whose). Director Nick Hamm handles all of this very well and manages to create a true air of tension, making it clear why he was able to work with the big-name stars in the stinker Godsend.

Chock up another dropped ball for Miramax. As with Below, Equilibrium, and Ella Enchanted, The Hole is an example of an above-average movie which was never given a proper chance to find its audience. The film opened in most of the world in 2001, but only recently made it's DVD debut in the U.S. The DVD was originally announced for late last year, but was mysteriously cancelled. One would think with the popularity of Keira Knightley that Miramax would have marched this film into theaters...or at least art theaters. (And for those of you who've heard that Knightley is topless in the film, yes she does flash her breasts for a few seconds.) The Hole is no classic, but it's certainly a well-made thriller that offers several surprises and an excellent performance from Thora Birch. If you were like me and thought that this movie was simply about a group of idiots who were trapped in a hole, then you may want to uncover what it's really about.

The Hole surfaces on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Overall, the video transfer looks fairly good on this disc. The image is sharp and fairly clear, although there is a considerable amount of grain in some shots. The dark, grey scenes in the hole are nicely contrasted with the bright, colorful scenes of Elizabeth's flashbacks, and all look fine, as the colors look good and the image is never too dark in the dark scenes. The image does show some ringing halo effects, but they are minor. If only the audio had been comparable. The DVD features a Dolby Digital Surround audio track. This track has the worst dynamic range that I've heard recently. The music and sound effects are at least 3 times louder than the dialogue. At times, the dialogue was inaudible. Given this fact, combined with the British accents, I was forced to watch the entire film with the English subtitles on simply to know what was being said. Given the current state of DVD technology, this is unacceptable.

The Hole DVD contains a smidgen of extras. Director Nick Hamm provides a very dry audio commentary in which he discusses the look of the film and the actors, but at times he seems to be droning on about nothing. The DVD contains 9 deleted scenes which are shown in one continuous segment (ie: no menu). Most of these scenes focus on Dr. Horwood's investigation, but a deleted epilogue is included here (which was stolen from Urban Legends of all places). The remaining extras are a short image gallery, four cast & crew profiles, and the theatrical trailer, which is presented full-frame.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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