With the number of people shot by illegally-owned guns growing daily, it’s refreshing to see a responsible cinematic plea for gun control. Shot is sobering, suspenseful and exemplary.
The always excellent and under-valued Noah Wyle plays a film editor named Mark Newman who, in the midst of trying to save a crumbling marriage and dealing with the pressure of a sudden deadline imposed by a demanding producer, takes a walk with his wife Phoebe (a marvelous Sharon Leal) and pauses on a street corner to discuss the the options of breaking up. Like a lightning bolt, a teenager across the street named Miguel playing with an illegal firearm owned by his cousin, inadvertently pulls the trigger, fires the gun, and Mark is hit in the chest by a single bullet. It’s just an accident, but who’s going to believe a 17-year-old black kid? A witness calls 911, an army of police cars with sirens howling sweeps down upon the scene, and Miguel panics and runs. The rest of the film tells parallel stories about Mark’s fight for life and the boy’s fear, confusion, and frustration as he tosses the gun, avoids detection, and tries desperately to find someone to give him the right advice.
Miguel is not a hood, but when his priest counsels him to do the right thing, call the police and tell the truth, his mother forbids him to get involved and his friends and relatives turn their backs on him. His nervous anxiety is contrasted with Mark’s point of view from a horizontal position in the ambulance and then on the stretcher that wheels him into the intensive care unit. In a meticulous performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what you’d do in his place, Wyle shows you how a shooting victim reacts in real life—his trouble breathing, his eyes dilating, the effects of the pain slicing through his naked body on the examining table, and the harrowing surgical procedures that follow. His agony, juxtaposed with his wife’s feeling of helplessness and the kid’s fright, is unveiled on split screens that involve the viewer with urgency. It’s a process that grows annoying, but Noah Wyle is so good as he goes through the stages of pain, rage, remorse and resignation that he keeps you caring and alert. It’s all the more interesting because for the first half of the movie the action takes place in real time, forcing you to experience the dramatic mood shifts at the precise moments the characters do.
The stories pick up again five months later, when Mark is in rehab, unable to walk, paralyzed from the waist down, unemployed, and alone in a wheelchair. Sensitively directed by Jeremy Kagan, the carefully calibrated screenplay by Will Lamborn and Anneke Campbell examines every nuance of the tragedy’s aftermath—Phoebe’s attempts to make Mark’s misery more peaceful, the loneliness they endure living separate lives at a time when they need each other most, and, finally, the circumstances that bring perp and victim together for the first time in a scene that is both moving and stunning. Here, at last, the kid (a natural, moment-to-moment performance by Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and the man whose life has been changed forever by a single shot from his gun meet face to face with unexpected pathos. Shot does all of this and more, without the discomfort of preaching gun control, but what the victim and his shooter do next and how it affects their future has an impact that I predict cannot be easily forgotten—even by the gun lobby.