ATM, the latest thriller from the mind of Chris Sparling (the writer of Buried) takes place mostly in an ATM booth late at night. While the concepts may be compared, Sparling does enough in ATM to separate it from Buried, but again the ending relies on the end reveal, and here, it’s severely underdeveloped. I’m sure the script (a Black List script like Buried) is an interesting read, but as a whole film, it fails on more than a few levels.
Unlike Buried, this film starts out at an office party for the first act, as David (Brian Geraghty) is convinced to ask Emily (Alice Eve) on a date, before she leaves the company for a better job in a different field. Corey (Josh Peck) is the guy who constantly eggs David on, and when he makes his move, Corey has to crash the party by pointing out that David is his ride home and he doesn’t have any cash to catch a cab. David agrees to drop him on the way, after they stop to get some cash so Corey can catch a cab home. However, Corey’s card isn’t working right, so he asks David to help him out. While they both go to the ATM, Emily gets restless and comes to check on them. By the time David is done with his transaction, they are ready to go, but a single man in the parking lot intimidates them into staying in the booth.
From there, the film is reliant upon the shadowy stalker keeping them in the ATM, for reasons that are unclear at every turn. It turns into a ‘hostage’ thriller of sorts, where the characters get stuck in every contrivance (left the cell phone in the car, no one else around, etc) until they decide their captor can’t be that dangerous. When a man from the neighborhood goes to walk his dog, the trio learns that this unknown man is indeed very dangerous, and have to re-evaluate their plans.
As they make the progression through their options, the unknown man is at large, setting traps and interfering with any chance of escape for the three. Technically, the film is well made, keeping the ATM booth a dynamic location, and keeping the tension rising throughout the film. The cinematography and sound are both excellent and serve the story fully. The only problem with the story is the motivations of the stalker, and even when we get the ‘big reveal’ at the end, there are more questions than answers. That’s not to say the film is open ended, it just refuses to provide a proper explanation for what was going on in the film, although there are vague hints at the motivations of the unknown man.
The characters are semi-interesting, but unfortunately they spend far too much time doing nothing except rehashing how fucked they really are, and the plot beats become routine, and the characters don’t do anything but go through the motions we expect them to. When everything hinges on the ending, and the ending is never properly explained, it makes all the flashy storytelling all for naught. Great effort, with solid direction from David Brooks, but unfortunately, he couldn’t do anything with a non-ending. People either loved or hated the ending of Buried, but at least it had an ending. ATM doesn’t have the luxury of a good ending, although for people interested in one location thrillers, I suppose there are some interesting things here.