Christopher Smith’s Detour marks the director’s return to genre films following his brief foray into family-friendly territory with 2014s Get Santa. Since unleashing Creep in 2004, Smith has spearheaded his way to the forefront of contemporary directors working in genre cinema with Severance, Triangle and Black Death all garnering rave reviews and showcasing his versatility when it comes to telling unique stories and shifting between subgenres. In this latest effort, he’s delivered yet another gem, an engaging neo noir thriller full of twists and turns and, as expected, it’s rather fantastic.
When young law student Harper (Tye Sheridan) agrees to pay criminal Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen) $20,000 to kill his stepfather in Las Vegas – who he holds responsible for the coma of his mother – they set on a road trip to with Cherry (Beth Powley) to carry out the wicked deed. What ensues is a turbulent journey across the sun-scorched desert highways of Nevada, where our troublesome trio must fend off suspicious police officers and deranged criminals to reach their end goal.
Like Smith’s previous film Triangle, Detour plays with timelines in an unconventional way, which keeps the surprises plentiful throughout. While not as mind-bending or nonlinear as Triangle, the story still manages to throw a curveball at the viewer just when events start to seem predictable; Smith expertly juggles parallel narratives into a fully-realised, cohesive body, peppers in some black humour and deconstructs our initial perceptions of the characters to great effect.
If there’s any justice in the world, it is only a matter of time before Smith lands a big Hollywood directing gig with a huge budget to play with. He’s every bit as good as British blockbuster auteur Christopher Nolan, and like him, Smith imbues commercial sensibilities into experimental genre fare to an impressive degree. With Detour, he has once again showcased his outstanding talent and unique vision, and he’s well on his way to becoming one of the best British filmmakers of his generation.