Director: Richard Linklater.
Screenplay: Stephen Belber.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Uma Thurman.

“I’m not high and mighty. I’m too high to be high and mighty”

As a companion piece to the marvellous Waking Life, director Richard Linklater delivered this experimental and solid little adaptation of Stephen Belber’s stage play. Some may not have even heard of this one, let alone seen it, as it’s probably one of his most unseen works. As always with Linklater, though, it confirms his place as one of the most original and under appreciated of American filmmakers.


Jon (Robert Sean Leonard) is a local boy who catches a big break as an actor and returns to his home town to attend a film festival where he is appearing in a new movie. At a motel he meets up with Vince (Ethan Hawke), his old high school friend. However, Vince hasn’t changed a bit and seems intent on bringing up things from the past which Jon seems happy to let go of. When Amy (Uma Thurman), another friend from school appears, things don’t quite add up as their past relationships have more to them than some of them care to admit.


Set entirely within the confines of a small, cheap motel room with bad decor, Linklater’s ingenuity is apparent from the offset. He shoots on digital video achieving a true minimalism that fully captures the feel of a stage play. There’s no music score or elaborate sound effects, but only the highly charged, back and forth interaction between Hawke and Leonard (reuniting after Dead Poets Society). This might not sound too appealing on the surface but it’s entirely effective for the material and the inclusion of an old flame in Thurman, adds a captivating edge to the overall purpose and motivation of the three-dimensional characters.


As a chamber piece, dialogue is the order of the day here and it’s sharply written and tensely delivered by all three cast members. Their awkwardness is apparent in their exchanges and they have us constantly wondering who to side with while Linklater utilises his environment to marvellous effect. In such a confined space, his movement with the camera is very impressive and he fully captures the claustrophobia and tension to perfection.


Sometimes Linklater will delver a film that just doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves and Tape can certainly be included among these. Criminally overlooked upon it’s release (and since) as this is a brilliantly realised adaptation that benefits from strong performances, inventive direction and maintains it’s intensity right to the very end.


Mark Walker

Trivia: It was during the time of filming this movie that Linklater decided to embark on his hugely ambitious, 12 year project “Boyhood”.


32 Responses to “Tape”

  1. Damn – too many Linklater films to watch! Buying this ASAP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good one Ankit. I think I’ve only got “Me and Orson Welles” to catch up with to complete my Linklater viewing but I was thoroughly impressed with “Tape”.


      • For me it’s just been the trilogy, Waking Life, and A Scanner Darkly so far. I know, I’m a snail alright!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Still, those are all very good films! You have many more delights to uncover, though! 🙂


      • The trilogy (of course) and PARTICULARLY Waking Life have been my favorites so far. Waking Life is so dazzlingly different!

        Indeed, many more to uncover!


      • Waking Life is a real favourite of mine too. I’d happily have it in his top three films.


      • I’d have it in some of my personal favorites, mainly cause I’m still exploring Linklater to rate his top 3 haha. Who makes films on existential crises and the essence of (and ultimate delusion over) reality these days with such conviction? SUCH a tough film to pull off.


      • Exacatly, man. Ive never seen a film quite like it. Im a real sucker for the exploration of philosphical questions and Waking Life has to be one of the best of this kind. My head was buzzing afterwards and its always a film i’ll go back to.


  2. Hawke is great in this, but it’s Uma Thurman who steals the show with as little as ten minutes of screen-time. Just goes to show you the type of talent she is, and makes me wish she was utilized a hell of a lot more for stuff worthy of her talents. Good review.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow I had never even heard of this but I’m intrigued on account of Hawke & Leonard reuniting after Dead Poets Society. Sounds like it’s criminally overlooked indeed.


    • Definitely overlooked Ruth. It’s understandable, though. It’s a film that wasn’t marketed highly and as far as I’m aware, it hit the DVD shelf straight away. It’s one that I would have ignored as well if it wasn’t for Linklater.


  4. Really interesting concept and style here, but I just found the story to be a little too cliched to hold my interest. Great write-up!


  5. Cool. Hadn’t heard a lot about this film. Sounds intriguing!


  6. Good stuff, Mark. Just saw this one recently myself and I really dug it, too. I loved how awkward everything felt — made it all the more real.


  7. Hmmm thanks for reviewing this, I hadn’t heard of it before but am pretty interesed in taking a look now!


    • I hope you do check it now. It’s worthy of some attention and I’m glad to be of service. You can never go too aff wrong with Linklater and, yet again, he produces the goods here. Cheers man!


  8. A little seen Linklater joint this, but well worth watching and I’m glad you agree. This was one of the first digital video movies I remember seeing so it has a certain novelty. Fine review mate.


    • Nice to come across another fan, Mark. I’d seen this years ago myself and really liked it. A recent revisit confirmed my opinion. It’s still good! And another winner for Linklater.


  9. Oh, wonderful. Think this has been mentioned to me in passing just recently, but I’ve since forgotten about it (shows how easily that happens with ‘Tape,’ apparently. 😉 ). Richard Linklater is so creative as a director, and this kind of minimal setting, with an intimate cast (which includes one of my favorites in RSL) is straight up my alley.

    Nice one man.


    • Yeah, try not to forget about this one, man. It’s a worthy inclusion into Linklater’s impressive work. It’s very minimal but all the more effective for it. Add it to your list, mucker! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah after seeing Boyhood and just recently Before Sunset, it’d be really neat and almost slightly disorienting to see Linklater working in such small strokes rather than grand, epic ones.


      • I rewatched this just before seeing Boyhood to get me back into the Linklater mood and it was as good as I remembered it. I always seem to get a kick out of Linklater’s stuff, though.


  10. Why have I never heard of this? it sounds like something I would love.


    • I’m glad to be of service, Abbi. The whole point in me posting this was to bring it to people’s attention. Most people I mention this to have never heard of it either. It’s brilliant and thoroughly deserves more attention. Please do so! 🙂


  11. Great film. Love the simplicity of it all.


  12. Excellent review Mark! I had never even heard of this, but I know that I am going to have to hunt it down now!


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