With a story all set on one night, we first meet Tom (Luke Bracey) when he is dashing to his truck and urgently driving off. Tom is panicking and frantically trying to run away as quickly as possible, hoping nobody nearby sees him. While driving, Tom attempts to call his daughter Ruby, leaving an urgent voice message telling her not to go home and requesting she call him back ASAP. Tom also begins to receive work-related calls, which he shuts down given his newfound situation and instead checks his voicemails while driving.
Based on the various discussions that Tom begins to have on the phone while continuing to drive, we learn that Tom’s daughter Ruby has gone missing. While Tom continues to investigate the possible whereabouts of his daughter, he also receives phone calls from a mysterious man known as ‘The Associate’ (Toby Jones). Claiming to have Ruby, ‘The Associate’ requests Tom complete a job to save her life. ‘The Associate’ is exceptionally clever and skilled in technology and knows everything about Tom’s life, including dark secrets from his past. Now, with the clock ticking, how far is Tom willing to go, and will he do something unspeakable to save the life of his daughter?
Mercy Road is best described as a thriller, and the film throws audiences into a world of mystery, starting with us not knowing what Tom has done as he flees. As Tom makes and receives many calls while driving, viewers are slowly given more information, including the story of Ruby’s disappearance and Tom’s past. Sadly, while Mercy Road attempts to introduce an instant mystery, it’s a baffling viewing experience. Firstly, while the mysteries at the start of a film try to create investment and curiosity for audiences, Tom’s situation is so vague that viewers lack a reason to care. As the film progresses, the character of Tom panics and makes many poor choices. His yelling and carrying on while driving causes the performance from Luke Bracey to come across as over the top, including the opening shot where we see Tom rushing to his vehicle and driving off. It feels slightly comedic and silly, and it doesn’t help when the background also looks unbelievable and possibly fake.
Mercy Road has an overbearing musical score that fails to build tension and suspense; instead, it feels torturous and unfitting. As a story, while the primary focus is on Tom driving and trying to save his daughter, various unrelated subplots that have no value or purpose are also introduced. This includes Tom dealing with a creepy spider that crawls out of the air conditioning vent, making him feel uneasy while trying to maintain focus and drive.
Overall, while I’m usually a huge fan and supporter of films set in one location- Buried and Locke along with a few others- Mercy Road is a disappointing journey. While instantly beginning with many unknowns and mysteries around the main story, the story fails to develop any investment or engagement for viewers. The leading character continually makes poor choices while yelling loudly and comes across as foolish and unwise. The performance from actor Luke Bracey sometimes seems over the top, which, for some, will be humorous for the wrong reasons. Some backgrounds look fake, and lack realism, and the overbearing, unfitting musical score is baffling. At best, there are aspects of the story I wanted to know answers to, but when the journey ends, Mercy Road isn’t something I’d like to return to, nor will it carry any substantial impact after viewing.