It’s certainly not a new concept for filmmakers to shoot their movies entirely in one continuous take, but it’s become more and more popular. Just look back at critically acclaimed movies like 1917, Birdman, and Boiling Point, and this year’s Medusa Deluxe. Love them or hate them, movies that are shot as a “oner” almost always manage to garner acclaim, from both critics and audiences, what with a one-take feeling incredibly immersive, and usually exceptionally shot. Now, 2023s thriller Failure!, starring Ted Raimi, is the latest to tackle the one-take movie gimmick to great success. While the movie certainly isn’t flawless, Failure! does a great job at thrusting audiences into a world that plays out in real time, sort of like a theatrical show. You can check out a poster and read our review below:
Ted Raimi delivers a phenomenal performance as the movie’s lead, carrying the entire weight of Failure! on his shoulders. Writer and director Alex Kahuam, as well as cinematographer Ernesto Lomeli, use the one-take aesthetic to perfection, with zero cuts or transitions. A brilliant and mind-blowing achievement indeed, one which will help instantly hook audiences in with its mysterious and undeniably tense atmosphere, which continues throughout.
Sadly, however, some of the movies supporting cast is irritatingly wooden, and their characters tend to be a little irritating. On top of that, the musical score, although impressive, was a little overused and took away from some of the movie’s more intense moments. That said, audiences who love a suspenseful, expertly made thriller with a wonderful lead performance shouldn’t miss out on Failure!
Failure! Is Anything But
Clocking in at around 80 or so minutes, Alex Kahuam’s Failure! follows James (Raimi) a business tycoon with a shady past, who is given one measly hour to choose between financial ruin or do whatever it takes to protect his family. We don’t really know what James’ past involves, but we can certainly make a few guesses, as murder and heinous crimes come concerningly easy for the man. It isn’t long before his secrets begin to unravel. James’ patience and love for his family is quickly tested as his entire life is threatened, leading to many interesting dynamics, impulsive decisions, and tense interrogations.
Ted Raimi Shines
Ted Raimi isn’t particularly known as an actor with the most range. However, no one can deny that Sam Raimi’s brother never fails to enthuse his characters with a trademark charm. Failure! is no different, and is undoubtedly Raimi’s best performance to date. The actor manages to fill a character as flawed as James with so much charm that we can’t help but root for the guy.
James’ playful relationship with his family and specifically his daughter is utterly endearing and provides one of the movie’s best moments. His line delivery is impeccably delivered, but it felt like a majority of his lines were improvised. If we are wrong, that’s a testament to Raimi’s acting chops, but if we aren’t, his improvisation was believable and impressive. Either way it’s a ton of praise.
When James has to be a little more serious and devious, Raimi similarly pulls that off seamlessly, creating an unpredictable character who could maniacally lash out at any minute, with zero warning. All of Raimi’s scenes are amazing, but one specifically tense interrogation has the actor pulling out the stops and delivering a terrifying performance, enhancing how unpredictable and unreadable James really is.
As with many one-take movies, Failure! is a meticulously made and artfully crafted movie. The choice to shoot in real time elevated the experience and the film’s prestige, making it feel somehow ‘bigger’ than it is. The close camera angles created an intimate but claustrophobic atmosphere, enhancing the tension and our connection to James throughout. With zero cuts, at least none that we could make out, Failure! only becomes that much more impressive. Shooting a 10 minute one-take is difficult enough, let alone an 80 minute with zero cuts. Hats off to the film’s cast, Alex Kahuam, and Ernesto Lomeli.
Lomeli sways and maneuverers the camera in such a way that will keep audiences engaged, but also allows the camera to sit still on characters during important conversations. In fact, that’s where the film often shines. The lack of music, and focus on the dialogue and performances, allow for many of the movie’s best moments. However, where the movie falls flat is with the liberal use of music. Overusing the score sometimes dissolves any real tension and sadly takes audiences out of the experience. Fortunately, the pacing is solid throughout, and with a short 80-minute run time, Failure! flies by, which is great for some of the film’s weaker scenes,
A Disappointing Supporting Cast and Characters
As brilliant as Failure! can be, it has some obvious downfalls, mainly with the secondary cast of characters. The performances from the supporting cast are pretty jarring. Almost everyone but Raimi gives fairly wooden performances, in turn failing to give Ted Raimi much to work with. The only performance worth noting was that of Ernest Cavazos, who played the mute assassin, Slavko. He never said a word, and perhaps that’s why he stood out.
In that sense, the script is partly to blame for not providing enough character depth or good dialogue. Other than the flawless Slavko, none of the characters in Failure! are too memorable. In fact, a lot of their personalities were fairly irritating. During the scene where James is taking part in a suit fitting, each character, most notably Junior, is a struggle to watch. Junior is a selfish, arrogant control freak who is trying to take control of James’ daughters’ wedding, which rightfully causes many arguments. His character is written to be annoying, so in terms of that, Failure! does succeed. Fortunately Raimi is at the center of everything in the film, and even with all his violence, he’s much more fun to follow.
From Alief, Failure! premiered at FrightFest on August 28, 2023. You can read more about the film at the Alief website here, and watch this space for more information about a wider release. You can watch a trailer below: