As lumbering and slow-moving as the vehicle in which most of its action takes place, Nick Gillespie’s horror thriller makes the familiar mistake of confusing obscurity with tension. Set in a vaguely apocalyptic, war-torn landscape (is there any other kind?), Tank 432 represents an occasionally intriguing but frustratingly oblique high-concept genre exercise that mainly induces tedium, not to mention claustrophobia.
The plot, such as it is, concerns a group of British mercenaries escorting a pair of orange jumpsuit-clad captives through a desolate countryside. They’re being pursued by menacing figures who are either wearing a gas mask or in serious need of a personal stylist. The bedraggled soldiers and their prisoners, under the command of the tough, orders-barking Smith (Gordon Kennedy), eventually take refuge in an abandoned Bulldog tank (which explains the film’s original, more evocative title, Belly of the Bulldog). The evasive tactic seems like a good idea for a while, until they discover that the tank’s hatch is broken and they’re trapped inside. The resulting situation turns out to be far more suspenseful for the characters than viewers.
Making his feature debut, writer/director Gillespie — a cinematographer whose collaborations with the executive producer, Ben Wheatley, include the acclaimed Kill List and High-Rise — displays undeniable proficiency for evocatively gloomy visuals and cinematically navigating within a confined space. But the film’s technical prowess is undercut by the uninterestingly terse, profanity-laden dialogue and thin characterizations that fail to get us invested in the mysterious storyline. By the time the surrealistic proceedings provide some answers about the true nature of the threat toward the end, we have ceased to care.
Several talented performers are wasted in the morass; besides Kennedy, who glowers authoritatively, they include Rupert Evans as a soldier succumbing to madness and Michael Smiley as a solder whose injuries leave him stranded outside the tank, resulting in a face-off that doesn’t end particularly well for him. A similar fate awaits moviegoers who plunk down heard-earned cash to see Tank 432.
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Production: Belstone Pictures
Cast: Rupert Evans, Michael Smiley, April Pearson, Steve Garry, Deirdre Mullins, Gordon Kennedy
Director-screenwriter: Nick Gillespie
Producers: Finn Bruce, Jennifer Handorf
Executive producer: Ben Wheatley
Director of photography: Billy J. Jackson
Production designer/costume designer: Jon Revell
Editor: Tom Longmore
Not rated, 88 minutes