Sometimes, the future feels like it hangs in the balance of a single moment.
Directed by Egidio Coccimilgio, Cascade follows four friends as they venture out into the wilderness, searching for adventure. To them, the outdoors is a refuge for the chaos of their lives and they are fueled by youthful innocence. However, after they stumble across a crashed drug plane, the group are faced with a choice: notify the authorities or keep their discovery to themselves. But their decision also draws the attention of a ruthless gang that wreaks havoc on their lives.
In a lot of ways, Cascade feels like a throwback to other fun genre thrillers of the 90s and early 2000s. Similar to classic films like Wrong Turn and Joy Ride, Cascade keeps the script small but revels in the chaos. There’s a simplicity about this film that makes it effective. Although there are no massive set pieces or special effects, Coccimiglio makes the massive forest feel small so that he can build the tension between his characters.
With its relatively simple premise, Cascade is a film that begins with the innocence of youth and peels away the layers of brokenness within the human condition. At the outset, these are typical teenagers, torn between adulthood and holding on to ‘one last adventure’. Relationships feel like they’re caught between coming to a close and getting warmed up at the same time. Tapping into the spiritedness of the age, Coccomiglio recognizes the fear of infinite possibilities that lie ahead but infuses it with the invincibility that we experience at that point of our lives.
But then, without becoming heavy-handed, the discovery of the drug plane leads to division within the group and leans into some interesting questions about temptation. Suddenly, youthful inexperience comes face to face with the darkest corners of reality and threatens to derail their future. Is it worth taking the risk of prison if fortune can break them free from our cycle of poverty? Or does ‘good’ take the reins and guide our actions? Questions like these weigh heavily upon these youth as their lives seem to hang in the balance.
In these moments, Cascade attempts to uncover the darkness the lies within us all. Faced with life-altering opportunities, compromise calls them to take the easier road to success instead of the moral high ground. (Visually, Coccimiglio augments this idea by placing his wreckage at the very bottom of the landscape, forcing the characters to descend into the depths to face its secrets.) For these characters, even the most noble of them have shadows within their soul that must be faced.
Because, in Cascade, the war for their character is as important as the fight for their lives.
Although Cascade may go unnoticed by many, it’s certainly worth checking out for an enjoyable night of thrills and kills. This tightly-executed thriller knows what it wants to accomplish and mostly stays on target. But the film’s best moments come when it feels like more hangs in the balance than their physical well-being. After all, for these characters, the real struggle is for their future.
Cascade is available on VOD on Tuesday, June 6th, 2023.