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Simon Read [Film Festival 10.12.11] movie review apocalyptic thriller

Year: 2011
Directors: Carl Tibbetts
Writers: Janice Hallett, Carl Tibbetts
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 6 out of 10

In a sense I was in the perfect mood to enjoy this film. Oftentimes at festivals one watches many films in a row and it can be exhausting, uncomfortable and if the film isn’t attention grabbing ones eyelids tend to grow heavy. Watching Retreat however I was alert, happy and had just had a beer with an old friend who came along to the gala premiere as my +1. We were ready to enjoy the film in good spirits and with open minds, but we soon realised that no matter how well our intentions were going in, it didn’t stop the film essentially being - for lack of another word - dull.

Basically the set up is thus: Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton play an estranged husband and wife who’ve recently suffered a personal tragedy and decide to visit their remote island cottage off the coast of Scotland as it reminds them of happier times. After a few days of moping around and lightly bickering with one another, the generator breaks down and they lose communication with the mainland. Not soon after Jamie Bell turns up injured in front of the house and claiming that over the last few days the world has fallen to a global pandemic of a nasty sounding virus and they should board up the house and lay low until it runs course. Should they believe him? One thing’s for sure, this is hardly going to help them smooth out the problems in their relationship any time soon.

Bell plays an army private who insists that the outside world is gone to all hell, taking charge of the house in a no-nonsense way and from the outset intimidating both the shy and quiet architect played by Murphy and battling with Newton’s fiery but vulnerable journalist. All the actors acquit themselves well here and inhabit the roles with the skill you’d expect from them, although Bell has the toughest job of the three in that his character is deeply conflicted and extremely disturbed. I was never particularly convinced by the pairing of Murphy and Newton, but they give it their best shot, even if the chemistry isn’t quite right.

The direction by Carl Tibbetts, who shares screenwriting credit, is pretty impressive, with the island itself essentially playing a fourth character. The house is transformed completely over the course of the story and by the end is almost unrecognisable as the furniture and fittings become makeshift barriers and firewood. (One goof: if you’re sealing yourself off from a killer airborne virus, why leave the chimney unblocked and exposed?) So in the end the problem really lies in the writing and the pacing of the film. The first half hour drags its self across the screen until Bell turns up, and even then the tension between him and the other characters never really becomes anything more than a long wait for a twist ending that roles around dutifully in act three, but doesn’t come as much of a surprise and even a last ditch sucker-punch before a fade to black only raises a smile and an eyebrow or two. Retreat does exactly what it says on the tin, but not in a good way, the problem is we’re not having enough fun here and it plays very much as if the writers had loaded a machine gun with movie clichés and let rip at a barn door. We’ve seen it all before and there’s nothing surprising and nothing particularly note worthy except that all three of the actors are good looking human beings who can act well.

Don’t get me wrong though, it is at least a diverting and at times quite exciting take on the old trapped-in-the-house genre, with some nice nods to the likes of Straw Dogs and Anti-Christ, et al, but the fact that it isn’t nearly as interesting as either of those films has to be flagged up straight away. The film starts, does its job with a certain degree of skill and respect for the audience and then once it’s finished the first words you’re likely to hear might be, “No bad but not very good either.” Or in my case, “That was a bit dull.”

There was an extremely polite (or British) round of applause which ended far sooner than the director might have hoped, reflecting what I took to be vague disappointment from the audience, and as a measure of how uninterested I was by the end I decided not to stick around for the Q&A, my friend was desperate for the toilet and my nicotine/crack habit was urging me for some fresh air.

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Wraith (10 years ago) Reply

Please Quietearth
Bring back the original font headings
and the picture on the way left hand side and small size doesn't look inviting anymore.


Michael R Allen (10 years ago) Reply

I think the titles are a mite to bright, but I like the update overall.

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