Blast, or Deflagrations in its cooler sounding, original French title, is a tense thriller focusing on a small company that disarms landmines around the world. After a recently successful contract in the Ukraine, they come face to face with their jobs back home. Even worse, children become involved. This setup follows a one set shoot with a claustrophobic focus on being trapped in a car that can explode at any moment; the more that is done to try and disarm the bomb, the more risk it can go off.
The scale of Blast is very tightly focused on the cast, and especially the singular location utilized for full impact. This is far from a bad thing, as the film is incisively written around being a single set drama effectively. While it has a narrow and mostly low-fi focus, a lot of effort has gone into showcasing extensive technical details. If you enjoy learning during a story scenario, there’s an extra layer of informative entertainment here. Bomb disposal procedures, whether that’s licensing to even technical manuals, become relevant in plot points, and there’s a lot of specialised equipment being displayed.
Don’t worry if the technical side is not your interest, however, as the personal element to the story is the fundamental core of Blast. Familial drama, fear for people close to you with whom you’re powerless to assist, and constant risk of death are all deftly portrayed by a poignant cast. Notably, the child actors put in strong performances, too, which is always a relief considering they have such large roles to carry and such performances are frequently contentious. Nora Arnezeder as Sonia is especially a standout performance – supplementing the emotional core on which the movie depends for gravitas. A personality for taking charge from her hyper competence as a bomb disposal technician, but way out of her comfort zone in such radical circumstances, she has a lot to contend with as a mother who also has a personal connection with the children in danger. All of this delivers a powerful, engaging character arc, all elements weaving throughout the plot and even having parallels to the wider mystery of the motivation behind planting the bomb.
Everything unfolding fulfils a strong, simple, and focused story, but Blast still has a little more to express with a deeper geopolitical subtext. It’s mostly in the context of a broader metacommentary from the scenario throughout most of the runtime, but it will significantly come to the forefront at key moments, and there’s some unnerving real world statistics presented after the conclusion of the story to palpably reinforce this. It’s undoubtedly a film which has something meaningful to say. The plot hinges upon the team’s contract of clearing landmines in former Soviet countries still undergoing extreme unrest; the ultimate reveal, too, of who wired the car to explode isn’t completely unsympathetic as a dynamic twist from black and white moralism, even if you completely disagree. Ahead of the credits rolling, Blast offers real world statistics on landmines to further contextualize the geopolitical grounding of the story, delivering a sober reminder that the world is neither comfortable or safe for a lot of people, children included.
Blast is a inevitably restricted by its single location, especially due to the globe-spanning plot, yet it successfully makes it work by using the claustrophobic setting to drive home the personal side of the thriller aspects. Confinement to this narrow perspective only amplifies the feeling of the characters being trapped themselves – it perfectly mirrors their physical plight. The tension is intense at times, with a sustained feeling of threat being practically constant, and the level of technical detail is going to appeal to viewers who like to learn along with their more visceral thrills. Provided you’re happy to sit in one place with your characters for an extended period of time, the twists, turns, and surprises in store for you with Blast are a lot of fun.
We Watched Blast as part of the Grimmfest 2021
Luke Greensmith is an Editor at the Grimoire of Horror and an active folklorist as well as working in film across a few roles. While this can cover quite a wide range of things, he’s a dedicated horror fan at heart and pretty involved with horror communities both online and local to him. You can find their folklore work on the Ghost Story Guys Podcast, their own LukeLore podcast, and accompanying the artist Wanda Fraser’s Dark Arts series as well as on the Grimoire of Horror itself.