Scenic Route

2013

Scenic Route

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

67%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 21

50%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,468
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Movie Info

Mitchell (Josh Duhamel) and Carter (Dan Fogler), life-long friends who have drifted apart, are on a road trip when their old pickup breaks down, leaving them stranded on an isolated desert road. Nobody can pick apart a man like his best friend, and as the relentless elements of the desert grind them down, they start to attack each other's life decisions with unwavering brutality. As they question who they are and who they could have been, their agitation leads to physical confrontation and ultimately knife-wielding madness, and what begins as an inconvenience becomes a very real life or death struggle.(c) Vertical Entertainment

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Critic Reviews for Scenic Route

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (7)

  • It's actually a well-made, well-acted low-budget thriller that is more resonant than expected.

    Aug 23, 2013 | Rating: 3/5
  • At the very least shows you how to make a smart, cheap little movie with only two actors, one main exterior set and no special effects.

    Aug 23, 2013 | Rating: 3/4
  • Kyle Killen's script is generally uninspired and fairly predictable ...

    Aug 22, 2013 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • It begins with energy, dulls in the middle stretches but redeems itself with a final destination that makes the trip feel worth it.

    Aug 22, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Scott Bowles

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • Fogler impresses with some brooding edge, but neither he nor the location photography is enough to recommend you join him on this doomed trip.

    Aug 22, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Mitchell and Carter never extend beyond the archetypes of Unhappy Family Man and Bitter Failed Artist. Nor do Duhamel and Fogler's inconsistent performances breathe life into their flat characters.

    Aug 22, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Scenic Route

  • Dec 27, 2013
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 10, 2013
    You know that there's a woman somewhere out there who is thinking, "You see, this is what happens when you don't take any girls on a road trip to make the men ask for directions", and when I say somewhere, I mean quite the difficult to place to find, as hardly anyone knows about this film, let alone a stereotypical, early-mid-life wife who still cares whether or not her husband asks for directions. Seriously though, I've heard of taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque, Bugs, but this is all kinds of wrong, and I'm not just talking about the casting. It's the, perhaps for somebody out there, long-awaited collaboration between Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, so you know that this is bound to be quite the effective psychological drama. I can't figure out which one of these guys is the bigger comedic actor, as Duhamel has done some attempts at dramatic films that ended up being about as funny as plenty of things that Fogler has done. If nothing else, these guys seem to be challenging each other to see who can look the most hard rock, and looking at Duhamel with all of that dirt and a Mohawk in the poster and after a while into the final product, I'd say he's in the lead, even though Fogler does sometimes try to make himself the new Jack Black, and has just gotten done playing a Russian in "Europa Report", which is pretty hardcore. Well, it would appear that Fogler is starting to strongly consider getting into more serious roles, which would be great and all is people were actually seeing these films or, well, for that matter, actually like them. Jokes aside, I'm kind of surprised to find that this "dramatic" thriller starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler is as well-received as it is, and yet, there are still some complaints from people who like this film, including myself. At this point, we've seen a film like this time and again, and no matter how much this particularly interpretation of an age-old bottle film formula tries to freshen things up with a buddy element that, in some ways, expands on tonal dynamicity and exploration of human layers in a crisis situations, even if it comes at the expense of the subjective immersion value that typically characterizes films like this one, this film still has little to say that's all that unique, even anything to say that's all that enlightening when it comes to developmental depth. Among the most undercooked elements in this film is motivation for the leads to end up in the main desert setting, and that really shakes investment, no matter how much the writer Kyle Killen tries to compensate by bombarding you with expository dialogue, even if its kick is limited, for although there is a lot of talk, expository depth to the characterization that drives this drama goes limited by objective dialogue, rather than more prominence in subjective visuals. The film stands to say more, and yet, it's still draggy, running a short length, but still offering a story so thin that not even a runtime of about 87 minutes is tight enough to prevent storytelling from getting bloated on filler and aimless exposition which are reasonably interesting, but slow down pacing and can't fully replace more immersive subjective storytelling. To tell you the truth, I really like bottle films, in spite of their natural shortcomings, but what a lot of rewarding dramatic, if not intense meditations upon man in claustrophobic environments that test humanity is their immersion value, and while this film is immersive in plenty of ways, all of the aimless rambling between the leads establishes too much objectivity in the place of subjectivity, making it all the harder to get drawn in enough to deny many of the natural shortcomings to this subject matter. As much as I love films like "Cast Away" and "127 Hours", no matter how incredibly well-directed and acted they are, they could never be great, as a story concept this minimalist limits potential something fierce, and it's hard enough to deny that when looking at good bottle films, let alone this one, which not tight enough in structure or realized enough in atmospheric bite for you to overlook dramatic limitations. I've always said that it's interesting how much impact you can get out of films this minimalist, but this time, it's hard to deny what can happen if you do not compensate for natural shortcomings about as much as you can, because even though this film is well-done in a lot of places, there are too many issues in storytelling for the final product to stand a chance of escaping underwhelmingness. Nonetheless, while the effort is not what it could have been, it stands to be a bigger misfire, even as a portrait of an unsettling setting for men to get end up stuck in. A bottle thriller that is almost refreshingly more driven by dialogue than sheer environment, this film offers a central, California desert setting that is not dynamic enough or thoroughly well-explored enough to be all that immersive, but still pretty distinguished as a compliment to the selling of a claustrophobic environment that is still pretty important in this character study. Fair style and engaging settings are there, and yet, as I've been saying, they're not as played up as they are in other bottle dramas, as this is more about the character interactions, which, in order to succeed as engaging, need good writing, something that is indeed found here, at least to a certain extent, because even though Kyle Killen's script gets to be aimless, dullness is kept at bay by sharp, but still down-to-earth dialogue and humor, as well as some subtly colorful set pieces and, of course, inspired characterization, which is questionable in its excessiveness, yet still thoughtful in drawing interesting humans with relatable and, in some ways, disturbing layers. Really, while the writing isn't especially compelling, it's pretty interesting to learn about these leads, and when the going gets to tough, fall-outs in humanity really do bite, especially when sold by the leads. For a while, leads Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler aren't given a whole lot to do, but they're consistently relatively revelatory in their abandoning their superficial, if not comedic roots in order to share very layered, very effective chemistry, bookended by two distinguished charismas and range whose dynamicity slowly, but surely, builds, until you're faced with dramatically charged performances that are not simply surprises from Duhamel and Fogler, but just downright outstanding. You really do have to see this film to see Duhamel and Fogler showcase just what they're capable of, because even though they haven't completely abandoned their types, they bring depth to their performances that does a whole lot to drive the subtle progressive of this character study, though not without the help of Kevin and Michael Goetz's offscreen efforts. Now, don't be expecting the Goetz brothers to deliver nearly as much as Duhamel and Fogler do in their excellent lead performance, or even as much as Killen does in his pretty decent script, as there is not enough directorial bite to fully compensate for unfocused areas in writing, resulting in a certain underwhelmingness to the final product and, by extension, direction, which is still inspired enough to sustain an atmosphere that never gets dry to the point of losing entertainment value, and whose meditations upon actual dramatic material kick with anything from biting tension to a degree of emotional resonance. Were the film to offer more of a dramatic heart or more intensity, or even less aimlessness, it would have come closer to rewarding, maybe to the point of achieving a somewhat solid status, yet when it's all said and done, through all of the flaws to challenge the memorability of the project on the whole, there is enough inspiration on and off of the screen to endear, no matter how much you'll walk away wishing for a little bit more. When the trip is over, a little bit of familiarity, a fair bit of underdevelopment and a great deal of aimlessness make it hard to ignore the substantial deal of natural shortcomings that leave the final product to sputter out as underwhelming, yet the immersive locations, clever and well-characterized writing, outstanding performances by Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, and reasonably inspired direction by brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz prove to be enough to make "Scenic Route" an adequately engaging and sometimes gripping, if generally improvable dramatic-thriller meditation upon two friends whose comradery are tested along with their survival skills when stranded with the elements and personal demons. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2013
    This is quite the surprising movie right here. Not that I was expecting it to be bad. I never go in expecting a movie to be bad. But this movie was surprising in the sense of how compelling it actually was in telling a tight, taut story of these two friends who are trying, at least one of them is, to get back to how things used to be. The film explores some interesting issues between these two guys while they're stuck in the desert in unforgiving weather conditions with no food and water. Basically, the film boils down to Mitchell and Carter arguing about how they're completely wasting each other's potential to be great. With Mitchell, he's engaged and married 4 months after breaking up with the love of his life, he's given up his music because his wife doesn't like it, his marriage is boring, he's in a job he hates, he has a kid and how that is putting his life on hold. Carter basically gave up the chance to be economically safe, but unhappy, in order to pursue his dreams to be a writer, even if he's not a very good writer. So the film, essentially, revolves around these guys airing out their problems to each other. But, as I said, it's done in a very smart way. I realize it doesn't read that well, but it is really good, the dialogue and the acting is very strong, so that helps. At the same time, the weather conditions definitely take their toll on Mitch's and Carter's psyche, so this arguing about each other's life decisions gets increasingly brutal and even violent. After Mitchell's and Carter's fight is where things get interesting. And this will be SPOILER heavy, so just skip ahead until I say, Mitchell believes he's killed Carter, but he hasn't. They spend a couple more days in the desert, before they finally get a signal on Mitchell's phone and they are saved. After they return home, Mitchell quits his job and is planning to go on a trip around the world with his wife and child, and he's also picked up his guitar again. Carter finally writes a book that's actually good and everything goes along perfectly fine. Probably TOO perfect if you've been watch the same movie I have. The ending scene consists of Mitchell, in a hotel room with his wife and son, calling Carter at 3 am theorizing that everything has just gone TOO perfectly and how everything he's experienced may actually be a product of his own mind and he never actually made it out of the desert. Everything seems to point to the fact that, yes, this is all a product of his imagination. But, at the same time, there's still enough room for doubt. It could very well be that Mitchell was so traumatized by his experience, that he believes that he didn't make it out when, in fact, he did. I don't know what to feel about the film being so self-aware of its own concepts, because I think I would've came up with the same conclusion, especially after everything they went to. But, at the same time, it also puts the idea into your head and you debate, if you watched with someone else, about what happened. So it's both good and bad, but mostly good. END SPOILERS. But yea, I digress. I really liked this movie, Joshn Duhamel and Dan Fogler are great, they really are. The script is very smart, with some darkly comedic moments. I wish more films were like this. It might not be a perfect movie, but it takes risks and a lot of them pay off.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2013
    This psychological thriller written by Kyle Killen, directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz, and starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival. The story of Mitchell and Carter - two old friends whose friendship is put to the test when they become stranded in the California desert is starting promising when tensions increase: Mitchell finds out Carter engineered the breakdown. After that first part, the middle was pretty dull! If you manage to stay awake during this second third I will promise you the unexpected ending with smart lines in between. Josh Duhamel (Mitchell) and Dan Fogler (Carter) gave probably the best performance of their career in this refreshingly intelligent and palpably suspenseful film - except that middle part. The movie becomes a survival tale and sometimes requires endurance during its gruelling, slightly crazed under the sun second half. Someone wrote that the Goetzes do a better job capturing the terrain's physical extremes and the challenge of endurance than they do depicting a relationship but I will question that statement because they could recognize some major points with ease. To me it looks like they had the beginning and they had the ending of the story, but the middle part was just filled to have them connected, not always successfully. From the poster people could expect it is like Taxi Driver - nothing even close, but the Scenic Route has enough excitement to warrant the trip. [img]http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/3064be10bbe85d4b2edd8a261f9f28de1b9cd1a9/c=483-0-1920-1080&r=x404&c=534x401/local/-/media/USATODAY/GenericImages/2013/08/22/1377189633000-scenic-route-SR-5a-high-rgb.jpg[/img] If you think that you haven't seen a well-made, well-acted low-budget psychological thriller that is more resonant than expected - try this one.
    Panta O Super Reviewer

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