This piece was written by Sir Simon Milligan
One of my favorite types of film is the “bottle” film – one where virtually the entire story takes place in a single, relatively small location. This term is largely credited as originating from the world of TV when, back in the 1960s, The Outer Limits’ creator Leslie Stevens would refer to episodes that were produced quickly and cheaply like ‘pulling a genie out of a bottle’. Another popular early TV example is Star Trek: The Original Series, where the term was sometimes used to describe episodes that took place entirely on the Enterprise (as in a metaphorical ship in a bottle).
The biggest reason why I love this type of film is because it requires excellent writing, directing, and acting to pull off; there usually aren’t any big-budget special effects or action sequences to draw upon. Unsurprisingly, stage plays are consistent source material for bottle films, with recent examples including Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, both by August Wilson. Some of my other favourite examples are 2013’s Locke starring Tom Hardy, which takes place entirely within a car, 2014’s Kajaki (aka Kilo Two Bravo), which is set almost entirely within an active landmine field, and 1997’s Cube, which takes place in…well I’ll leave it to you to figure out.
But my top choice has got to be 1957’s 12 Angry Men, the O.G. of bottle films. Basically set entirely within a jury deliberation room, the film is still resonant today in terms of its depictions of race, class, the criminal justice system, and the general public’s stereotypes about the type of person who commits crime (not to mention the type of person most likely to serve on a jury). Also, as something of a scientist myself, I appreciated how the film portrayed the jurors deliberately analyzing data (evidence) to come to an objective conclusion – a process whose biggest threat is the biases held by the jurors. Because the film is in the public domain, it can be viewed freely online: https://www.publicdomainmoviess.com/movie/309-12-angry-men
Prompt: What’s your favorite “bottle” film?