P2 (2007)

US / 98 minutes / color / P2 Productions, Aja–Levasseur, Summit Dir: Franck Khalfoun Pr: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, Patrick Wachsberger, Erik Feig Scr: Franck Khalfoun, Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur Story: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur Cine: Maxime Alexandre Cast: Wes Bentley, Rachel Nichols, Simon Reynolds, Philip Akin, Stephanie Moore, Miranda Edwards, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Grace Lynn Kung, Bathsheba Garnett, Philip Williams, Arnold Pinnock, Franck Khalfoun.

Having worked late at the office on Christmas Eve, Angela (Nichols) discovers her car won’t start, and seeks help from security guard Thomas (Bentley). Little does she know he’s a psycho who has planned all this. Trapped in the multi-level parking garage beneath the building (the P2 of the title is one of its levels), her cell phone having no service, she must try to free herself from this narcissistic madman and his vicious dog, Rocky.

P2 is sometimes billed as a horror movie—presumably because of a very brutal sequence in which Thomas murders Jim Harper (Reynolds), a colleague of Angela’s who molested her during the office Christmas party—but really it’s a psychological thriller that sits easily alongside such releases as PANIC ROOM (2002; dir David Fincher, with Jodie Foster and site favorite Forest Whittaker).

Rachel Nichols as Angela.

Here, though, the movie is to all intents and purposes a two-hander, resting entirely on the performances of Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols. (No one else really has more than a bit part except Simon Reynolds, who spends almost all of his screen time bound and gagged. Philip Akin plays Karl, the building supervisor; Philip Williams and Arnold Pinnock play a couple of cops.) Bentley portrays what’s essentially a rentapsycho—there’s nothing new on offer, and the screenplay does him few favors—but Nichols is really quite outstanding as the initially rather icy career slave who learns through her ordeal how empty she’s allowed her life to become.

Wes Bentley as Thomas.

Its soundtrack stuffed with Christmas standards like Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” P2 boasts surprisingly high production standards, especially considering that all of the action must take place in such a restricted space and timeframe. The direction’s pace never really lets up, and Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography in places seems almost inspired. My only quibble was that a couple of times the editing made the progress of events seem a little disjointed, unclear; I never, for example, worked out how Angela managed to free her hands when they’d been trapped in the parking garage’s gate.

Simon Reynolds as Jim Harper

Philip Akin as Karl.

P2 probably isn’t everyone’s idea of a Christmas movie for the whole family to watch while the Yuletide log crackles and the festive punch flows freely, but it cleaves to its Christmas theme as faithfully as any Hallmark seasonal offering might.

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