I liked some aspects of Right at Your Door more than others.
This is a terrorism thriller, set in Los Angeles, focusing on a couple trying to survive after numerous chemical bombs are set off in the city. You really get to see and hear only what they do, so the “big picture” of what’s going on stays mostly mysterious. There isn’t the kind of footage you would normally expect to see in a movie about a terrorist attack: there’s nothing of the president, or military leaders, or really of the bomb blasts themselves beyond some smoke in the distance. Not even on TV since the power is out and they have no television or Internet, only a radio that enables you to overhear the very limited updates that trickle in. It’s really just these folks trying to stay safe from the chemical ash falling on their neighborhood.
Mostly I liked that approach. The way the information is so limited makes it easier to put oneself in their position and feel the fear and confusion.
Ironically one of the things I most liked about the film was the “big picture” stuff that is doled out so stingily. As I assume it would be if I were living through it in real life, my attention was directed most at whatever news came available.
In fact, I think that though the characters show a certain amount of interest in that, it is still unrealistically little. They speak by phone to people who do have television and Internet access and such, but they don’t stay on the line with them and pump them for all the information they can like I’d expect. (And another quick critical point about this. The news they hear on the radio feels “off,” I think because it’s all local. I believe there’s even a point when they’re on the phone with someone out of town, and they act like they have no way of knowing how the story is playing nationally because they’re stuck in Los Angeles with just a radio. But surely the radio would be full of national coverage of the terror attack. This device adds to that sense that they’re isolated with very limited information about what’s going on, but it does so unrealistically.)
But anyway, the story plays out like a mystery. It kept my interest in finding out who had set off the bombs, how widespread was the damage, the nature and lethality of the chemicals released, etc. And when the authority figures make their brief appearances—military types in hazmat suits and the like—there is a real ominous feel to it. I was anticipating some sort of crazy ending where it turns out the government set off the bombs on purpose or something, because I sensed them as a far from benevolent presence.
It was the human elements that didn’t connect with me as well. It’s all set up in such a way that the husband and wife face various moral dilemmas about how best to save oneself or the other, there are a couple of supporting characters they have to decide how and whether to try to help and at what risk to themselves, and so on. It’s not terrible, but I didn’t feel those conflicts at a deep level. The acting and the dialogue and such seemed mediocre to me, and there are some things that aren’t all that believable (like that the husband would be frantically trying to drive toward the danger to rescue his wife, when he has no clue where she is, it’s total chaos, and access is forbidden by the police—is he really going to make things better by evading road blocks and throwing himself into that environment?).
I’d say on the whole Right at Your Door is fairly good at establishing a mood and keeping one in suspense. The details of the story and the ending they chose are OK but nothing special. Of the movies I’ve written about so far, it’s most similar to Bug. I liked Bug a little better.
So a mild recommendation for those who like this kind of movie.