The path our life takes can be shaped by a variety of things such as environment, home life, friends, but in the end it is the decisions we make that ultimately shape us into the people we will become. Through that thinking we are presented with the lives of four young people in Aimee Lagos’ film 96 Minutes. This was definitely a passion project for Lagos as this was not only her first feature but also a film she had been wanting to make for awhile stemming from her personal experiences while working at a Inner-City Youth Center in St. Louis.
We are first introduced to Dre played by Evan Ross who lives by himself in what looks to be a abandoned house. His focus isn’t on the now but the future as he is one of few that will be graduating high school. His school is riddled with metal detectors and security guards; doesn’t look as if the teachers care much either as one makes a announcement that most of them will be repeating their senior year. Then there is Carley played by Brittany Snow (Hair Spray, Harry’s Law) who seems to be the complete opposite pulling into a university parking lot in her big SUV, piled high with text books; on the outside she seems to be the generic blond with everything going for her. Next there is Lena played by Christian Serratos (Twilight Saga) who at first I did not peg as a main character because of how she’s treated, a throw away girl. When we first meet Lena she is just another girl in some over the top, selfish, egotistical douche’s bed; but that’s what she has chosen for herself a life that doesn’t go against the grain. Lastly there is Kevin played by Jonathan Michael Trautmann who out of everyone has the least going for him. He has no father, his mother looks to be a prostitute and he has no ambitions in life other than joining a local gang.
Through random coincidence and bad timing these four are brought together through a failed carjacking. Dre is trying to show Kevin that resorting to gang life is not his only answer and that he has other options. Kevin does not feel as if he needs anyone looking out for him and to prove to Dre and himself he holds up Carley and Lena as they make their way out from a bar. Through hesitation, hot tempers, and a extremely volatile situation Kevin shoots Lena in the face then forces her and Carley into her car; also forcing Dre to “take control” and drive the car. The film inter cuts between what happens during the carjacking and how each character got to be in that situation.
I don’t want to give any spoilers and will just leave it at that Lagos takes you on a adrenaline filled, roller coaster of a ride. The scenes in the car had me at the edge of my seat as Kevin waved his gun around and Dre is frantically thinking of what do next, seemingly watching his future fade away, and then you have Carley holding Lena in her lap as she clings to life. The soundtrack and editing complimented the story and gave the scenes a higher tension feel that had me thinking what would happen next. Lagos allows the viewer to fully understand who these people are through flashbacks which just makes the film that much stronger.
The main thing I took away from this film was the acting. Lagos really lucked out finding and putting together these four people. Evan Ross as Dre played his character so well that at times he didn’t have to say a word to show what he was feeling and trying to process in his head. Brittany Snow goes on an emotional ride from hell and you can’t help but feel bad for her and want to pull her out. The breakout star though in my opinion was Jonathan Michael Trautmann as Kevin. In the beginning he seems like a lost soul just trying to make sense of his life and I felt for him as a character but as the film goes on I just began to hate him. He utters just stupid and nonsensical things during the most inappropriate situations and acts more like a demented child than a dumb teenager.
I really enjoyed this film and cannot wait for Lagos’ next one. She handled her first film like a professional and with only 18 days to shoot the entire thing it’s amazing how good it is; truly the work of a talented director.
3 out of 5