Women in captivity, solitary or otherwise, have recently featured in quite a few movies – including fresh variants like Room, Pet and 10 Cloverfield Lane. It may be stretching things to read these long-gestating projects as zeitgeisty, but the notion of being trapped in a situation you didn’t vote for at the mercy of a patronising, unreliable, bullying, cajoling creeper-father figure – which is even a subtext of Passengers – has a specific bite in the current political climate. Cage is a bare-bones entry in the cycle. As a person-in-a-pickle movie, it is as rigorous as Buried in letting only one person onscreen throughout – though, as is now traditional, giving the protagonist a cell-phone with a long-life battery means the cast can be bumped up and we don’t have to rely on someone talking to themselves to carry the drama.
Seen jogging through woods in a brief outdoors opening, Grace Blake (Lucy-Jane Quinlan), a young woman who makes ends meet by running her own phone sex line, is drugged and wakes up on an ankle chain in a wooden cage in an anonymous warehouse she believes is in Seattle. She is called by Peter (Patrick Bergin), her abductor, who never satisfactorily explains why he’s taken her – he says it’s more than sex, but considering he claims to be flying around the country on a mystery trip, it’s possibly not even sex – and is also mysterious about what exactly her set-up is, though he is observing her by remote camera and can hear all the calls she makes and receives, mostly with her boyfriend Eddy (Jake Unsworth) and mother Sandra (Sharon Drain). A missed opportunity is that none of her clients have this number – it might have been neat if the heroine had to try to get a horny phone sex customer to help her escape.
In her recent backstory, Grace has a child given up for adoption, a mental condition which requires medication and slightly clingy parents – during her ordeal, with the expected ‘Day Six’ captions, she tries to work out the combination of the cage’s lock, initially obeys Peter’s wishes she not call the cops but then does report herself missing when her father has a heart attack, though she still keeps spinning excuses to her mother about why she’s not turned up at the hospital. Writer-director Warren Dudley (The Cutting Room) hints that there might be a conspiracy or mystery about the abduction – teasing at possible twist endings – but then a late-in-the-film development (clue: the film is set in 2001, with period-appropriate clunky Nokia phone) drops any of that to pile on the agony. Quinlan is initially callow, but impresses in the later stages as privations wear her down – the actress makes more of the character than the script, which overloads her with tokenistic emotional ties and then doesn’t carry through with them. Bergin is nicely smug, annoying and mysterious as a mastermind who now seems strangely distracted from his plan – as if he has other big things going on his life and just can’t keep up with his Collector scenario.