Written and directed by Nick Gillespie
Screened at Fantasia 2016
Premiering at this year’s Fantasia Fest in beautiful Montreal, Nick Gillespie’s Tank 432 (aka Belly of the Bulldog) should probably already be on your radar if you’re a fan of genre auteur Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise). Wheatley only serves as executive producer here, but his influence is felt, especially in the casting of actor Michael Smiley, who frequently pops up in Wheatley’s films.
Smiley is only one of a group of hired soldiers who find themselves running from a mysterious enemy as they try to keep their two female hostages, and themselves, alive long enough to find out what their mission is on a remote battlefield.
Rupert Evans (The Boy, Hellboy) plays Reeves, the moral center of Tank 432 who’s thrust into a dire situation where his thrown together outfit is severely outmanned and mostly fueled by fear. Appearing suddenly on the horizon, strange figures resembling Tusken Raiders in lab coats haunt the soldiers instead of actually engaging in battle. They seem impossible to kill, forcing the ragtag group to hole up in an abandoned tank, where they slowly uncover the truth about their situation.
There are some effective reveals and a few memorable kills using practical effects, along with some epic drone cinematography and a melancholy piano score, that combine to make Tank 432 feel almost like an R-rated episode of “The Twilight Zone.” The performances, especially by Smiley as the increasingly crazed Capper, are all compelling and add to the claustrophobia.
These grunts are there on a need-to-know basis and, as a result, can’t really do anything but follow orders. The audience, however, doesn’t really know what’s going on either; and once the answers start to come, it’s a little too late. The big reveal towards the end is somewhat vague and emotionally unsatisfying. There are enough clues to stay engaged in the story, however; and the not knowing does make it easier to relate to just how in the dark these characters are.
Tank 432 at its core is really about what the government is capable of and how individuals no longer deserve any answers once they become an expendable piece of property. Add the twisted ideas of writer/director Nick Gillespie and the aforementioned Wheatley to the mix, and suddenly, these mercenaries are in a world of hurt.