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Trapped (2001)

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 86 mins . M15+ . PAL


I gotta say I didn’t expect much from this film, but was at least mildly rewarded by some clever use of shooting and special effects to tell the story. While not the greatest of action dramas, and although made for television, this was still fairly watchable until the decidedly un-cliffhanger ending that we could see coming from three floors down.

Our story follows the unlucky fortunes of several people trapped on the upper floors of a casino fire in Las Vegas. The Sloan Casino has just reopened and around 1:30am a fire breaks out in three places on the 24th floor. Unoccupied due to renovations up to the 29th floor, there are, however, 13 people between the 30th and 31st floors who have all realised the elevators, phones and alarms are dead due to sabotage and the only way out is up. As they move toward rescue, a news reporter trapped with them is filming them live to the waiting world. They then learn that the fires are the work of an arsonist and it becomes apparent (due to a psychic woman who is with them!) that this arsonist is among the survivors.

"This is just like that survivalist show, except they’re in a burning building!"

This part of the story, the arsonist being among them, is the weakest link in the story – no, wait, it’s that a psychic had a vision telling her the arsonist was among them. Which is basically just an excuse to get the survivors all riled up at each other for the sake of drama, as it isn’t greatly discussed. While the temptation to overact must have been great, happily most of the cast keep their wigs on and play it well. Naturally, as with all disaster movies, several characters die (each in a different way - remember your training at scriptwriter’s school) and we have fun hoping, erm, guessing who’s gonna be next.

The filmmakers have included some nice computer animated effects and have resisted temptation (again) to go nuts, rather choosing the light approach to good effect. At 86 minutes, the film is just the right length to maintain the tension, and it works well. Even another ten minutes would have killed it, so thankfully the director knew when to call it a day. The ending is very swiftly upon us, but we get an extra long pause before it to work out where the film is headed, so mercifully they haven’t seen any point in prolonging it.


Although delivered in 4:3 for old style televisions, the picture has been well laid out to fit with the screen size nicely. Made in 2001, there are no obvious film artefacts and the picture quality is superb. A lot of scenes are shot in darkness or lit only by firelight and nothing gets lost to the shadows. Blacks are true to life and the colour palette is very rich in warm colours for most of the piece. Before the fire, colours are vivid and cash in on the Las Vegas setting, with a wide range of garish being employed that doesn’t look overdone.

Flesh tones are real enough and rather than use shonky makeup to portray burns, the director has opted to hint at them, rather than stuff our faces in them, which is to his credit. As mentioned above, the computer animation is quite nice, and although at least one shot is repeated, it is still subtle rather than Armageddon-style. Having a reporter doing live feeds from inside the group, the film is interspersed with video footage and this too works well to build tension and the reality factor. Generally a very nice, clean print with truly sumptuous clarity. The only real flaw is in the camera moving about too much in some action scenes, making it harder to follow the action. Otherwise, great.


The major thing about the sound package here is the score. This plays great all the way through, and whilst the audio is only delivered in Dolby Digital stereo, it still sounds just perfect. Appropriately building throughout, it is the better tension vehicle than the dialogue or acting, it’s gotta be said. The dialogue is still fine and easily understood, with the only failing being in the distortion of some radio and television transmissions, although the majority have been handled well.

Sound effects too could have been everywhere, but restraint is again respected here. Plenty of nice broiling roars of flames and explosions that sound pretty clear and thankfully not stockish. Made for television, stereo is all we could expect and it has been well utilised here to give a pretty good soundstage.


Comprehensive filmographies are about all we get and while these are nice (particularly with a few mildly recognisable faces in the cast) they don’t really add much to the value of the disc. Four are included here and are current to today.


Television movies used to be cheaply made and that was usually apparent in their production. These days, however, with Hollywood big guns financing TV, budgets are bigger which means better scripts, better special effects and better cast and crew. And that adds up to better productions for the consumer. Trapped is perhaps one of this new breed of film with some decent performances and clever, well-executed special effects. While a far cry from Oscar-winning portrayals, this is nonetheless a surprisingly good production, regardless of the rather tacked on ‘arsonist’ subplot. Try renting it first and see how you go from there.

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      And I quote...
    "Meat Loaf in a burning building. Mmm, delicious!"
    - Jules Faber
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