Grant Singer’s feature film directorial debut, ‘Reptile’ brings a crime thriller film ripe with mystery and intrigue as a seasoned Detective tries to find the truth behind a complex murder case. Following the brutal murder of a young real estate agent, Summer Elswick, the police bring in Tom Nichols, a homicide detective with plenty of experience, to uncover the identity of the killer. At first glance, Summer’s boyfriend, Will Grady, occupies the obvious spot of the prime suspect until other information comes out in the open. As previous assumptions about the case prove themselves wrong, Tom learns a truth that turns his world upside down.
With compelling performances by Benicio Del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Silverstone, and Eric Bogosian, among others, the film effectively brings the investigative world of Tom Nichols to life. The narrative offers an entertaining, suspenseful murder investigation and engages the viewers in Tom Nichols’ life, encouraging them to solve the case alongside the protagonist. In order to do so, the narrative equips artistic cinematography to immerse the audience in it’s world. However, when and where exactly does that world take place? Let’s find out!
Where Does Reptile Take Place?
Although the geographical setting of ‘Reptile’ hardly has much influence over the course of the plot, the setting manages to shine through in select instances. The story unfolds in New England, the region in the northeast of the United States, specifically in the town of Scarborough in Maine. As a cop, Tom is used to moving around at times, and subsequently, so is his wife. Therefore, even though we don’t know the specifics of Tom and Judy’s history, we can conclude that the pair moved to New England a long time ago due to numerous allusions to their past residence in Philadelphia.
The couple found their new home in Scarborough, establishing a well-formed friend group in the town, including several other cops, such as Wally or Judy’s uncle, Allen. In fact, it was Allen who helped the couple settle in the new state after Philadelphia. For the most part, the geography of Summer’s murder hardly remains relevant to her case. The same events could have unfolded in other cities or states.
Yet, New England’s inclusion in mystery stories has become a tradition, especially in modern thriller books such as ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tart or ‘All the Dark Places’ by Terri Parlato. Likewise, films like Rian Johnson’s ‘Knives Out’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’ also take place in New England. As such, the setting seamlessly blends into the film’s mystery-fueled genre.
The location also occasionally manages to shine through with consistent references to local cultural events such as square dancing, a hobby that Tom and Judy often indulge in throughout the film.
When Does Reptile Take Place?
Given the film’s classic whodunit premise, with a seasoned detective clad in suits and leather jackets, one might expect ‘Reptile’ to occur in a certain time period or another. Nevertheless, the film takes place in contemporary times. Since the narrative never highlights a set year, it would be fair to assume the story unfolds sometime in the early 2020s.
The narrative’s employment of the modern landscape grounds the story in reality and helps the audience relate to the experiences unraveling on the screen. As a result, the film has the advantage of picking up an almost slice-of-life narrative that helps the viewers settle into the story before the fast-paced investigation takes over.
Throughout the plot, modern technology plays an instrumental role in the police investigation. Smartphones, laptops, internet, security cameras, and the like are commonplace within the world and often help move the plot along. In that regard, the film never tries to shield its contemporary setting or manipulate it for the sake of the genre. In fact, the compelling combination of classic crime mystery elements paired with modern society, with modern tech and characters, helps inform the film’s standing as a neo-noir.