Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri and written by Michitaka Okada, #Manhole is a Japanese dramatic thriller starring Yûto Nakajima. It’s the night before Shunsuke Kawamura’s (Nakajima) wedding and his co-workers decide to throw him a surprise party at a local bar.
At the end of his heavy drinking night, Kawamura stumbles in the direction of his home but falls down a manhole. The next 90 minutes are his struggle to escape.
Much like Buried, in which Ryan Reynolds’ character is buried alive, and The Pool, where a man gets trapped in an empty pool with an alligator, #Manhole is a thriller set in a mostly singular location. #Manhole features a few pleasant surprises while exploring the concept of a man falling down a manhole — making viewers wonder how such a simple premise could be stretched out for an hour and half of entertainment.
The first intriguing aspect of #Manhole is that Kawamura’s phone works the entire time. It doesn’t break, it doesn’t die from overuse, and its reception remains unaffected. While one of those three elements would probably occur in a real-life situation, his phone being accessible at all times is what makes the film work.
The hashtag in the title is a dead giveaway, but #Manhole is a social media thriller. Kawamura creates a fake identity as Manhole Girl on the social media platform Pecker, which is a blatant rip off of Twitter (now X). Kawamura’s posts go viral that has the entire platform trying to assist in his escape. The situation is not so surprisingly similar to a Simpsons episode from season three; the episode when Bart falls down a well entitled Radio Bart.
Kawamura’s phone working and the social media aspect provide insight into his bizarre situation. His fall results in him cutting his leg on a broken pipe; a pipe that leaks gas from time to time. There’s no lid on the manhole, which makes him vulnerable if it ever starts to rain, several rungs on the ladder leading out are broken, making it impossible for Kawamura to escape, and there’s drainage in the wall that oozes foam.
Conflicts arise despite Kawamura having his phone with him, such as no one answering his calls because they’re either celebrating before the wedding or preparing for the ceremony, and his GPS seemingly malfunctioning.
Other than the cast of co-workers at the start of the film, and the voices we hear on the phone, #Manhole rides on the performance of Yûto Nakajima; he is the only on-screen character for 90% of the thriller.
Nakajima goes through nearly every emotion; he laughs at his ridiculous circumstance and inability to easily be rectified, he cries and yells out of frustration and desperation, and he rolls himself into a little ball by hugging his knees when he feels like giving up. Nakajima’s performance is most effective when he’s at his angriest or when he’s laughing maniacally; his dialogue being naturally more passionate because of said emotions is a testament to that.
Having run-arounds with the cops and an ex-girlfriend, who may or may not actually be helping him based on a bad breakup, can only take #Manhole so far. Much of the film is spent on social media, making #Manhole feel similar to the 2018 film Searching, which was set entirely on computer screens and smartphones. The Pecker aspect of the film gets dull since it’s such a large chunk of the film, but it eventually goes in an unexpected direction.
The last twenty or so minutes of #Manhole are an insane left turn. Without actually showing a ton of blood, #Manhole dives headfirst into the horror genre. Watching the film, you’re invested in the drama of Kawamura doing everything he can to get himself out of a manhole — making the film’s dark plunge completely and totally unexpected.
#Manhole is ludicrous at times and its dependence on social media becomes a bit of a hindrance, but Yûto Nakajima’s solid performance and an absolutely bonkers ending make this a thriller worth watching.
The film explores who you’re willing to rely on even in desperation as burned bridges suddenly become wild cards that may or may not save your life. As a result, #Manhole is one of the most unique cinematic experiences of the year.
- The twist and ending are completely out of left field.
- Yûto Nakajima’s performance.
- Social media aspect gets tiresome.
- The concept feels stretched beyond its means at times.