Film Review: Detour (UK, 2016) tells its simple story with a violent edge and an air of unpredictability

Having made something of an underground name for himself in the horror genre with such European productions as Creep, Triangle, and Black Death, British filmmaker Christopher Smith opted out for a brief moment to helm some TV work and an out-of-character holiday-themed comedy; Get Santa with Jim Broadbent and Warwick Davis, for those playing along at home.

Comfortably slipping back into form, Detour tells its simple story with a violent edge and an air of unpredictability, utilising its intricately developed screenplay, ambiguous editing, and committed lead trio of talent to its benefit.

Detour concerns itself with emotionally troubled law student Harper (Tye Sheridan), and the taxing situation he finds himself in as a result of his anger towards his step-father Vincent (Stephen Moyer).  With his mother tragically in a coma following a car accident – one Harper believes his step-father had more to do with than he leads on – the troubled teen spills his theory in a drunken haze one night to the brash Johnny (Emory Cohen), and after “hypothetically” questioning what the cost would be for step-daddy dearest to exit the picture, Harper halfheartedly agrees to Johnny’s plan; $20,000 and Vincent’s body can be disposed of in the deserted outskirts of Vegas.

Adopting a “what if?” temperament, think the Gwyneth Paltrow romcom Sliding Doors but with a more sinister edge, Detour veers into a duo of opposing scenarios for Harper: one where he is coerced into Johnny’s car to carry out the deed in Vegas, unable to convince the volatile crim his ramblings on taking out Vincent was all booze and no brain; the other taking place predominantly inside Harper’s house where his desire to punish Vincent is projected in reality.

Given the editing style of the film it’s difficult in the initial stages to comprehend just what exactly is happening, and though it may prove jarring to some – our comprehension of what is dream and what is reality is intentionally skewered – the two storylines ultimately blend together in the final act, and the film so clearly revels in its ability to blindside us so spectacularly.

You could argue that Detour appears smarter than it is due to its somewhat gimmicky story presentation, and perhaps there will be some audience members who will connect the dots more logically, but there’s no denying Smith’s ability in neatly framing a story within  its confusing compounds.


Detour hits select cinemas in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne this Thursday, June 22nd.


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Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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