Burn is the directorial debut from Mike Gan, a thriller set in a single location, a small-town gas station in the U.S., following events which take place over a single night. Gas station assistant Melinda (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is the very definition of the lonely outsider, struggling to make a meaningful human connection with her popular, beautiful and cruel colleague Sheila (Suki Waterhouse). As the pair’s night shift progresses they are visited by various customers, the local police officer and finally by Billy (The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson), a man seemingly desperate for money, who holds the pair at gunpoint. Events soon escalate as Melinda’s own insecurities begin to turn the already bad situation worse as she makes misguided steps to befriend Billy.
“I burn myself all the time. It’s not a bad thing,” Melinda says to Billy. “Fire just forces things to change really fast.”
Burn would feel as at home on a stage as it does on the screen. The single location and contained time-frame give it a distinctly theatrical feel, which means it becomes heavily reliant on the performances of the small cast. Luckily the performance of Tilda Cobham-Hervey is more than compelling enough to hold interest. Cobham-Hervey’s restrained performance keeps you guessing as Melinda’s choices become increasingly bizarre. Indeed Burn could be seen as somewhat of a gender swap as Melinda’s character is one we are more normally used to see being played by men, as her behaviour becomes increasingly sinister. Josh Hutcherson is also a charismatic screen presence, which is fortunate given that he may be the biggest name in this relatively small production.
There is an excellent use of music throughout the production, helping ramp up the tension in what becomes a game of cat and mouse as more players enter the stage.
While it isn’t ground-breaking in any aspect, Burn is an engaging and entertaining thriller which will keep you guessing right up until the final frame.
Directed by: Mike Gan
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Suki Waterhouse, Harry Shum Jr, Shiloh Fernandez, Tilda Cobham-Hervey