DIR: Julian Gilbey • WRI: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey • PRO: Michael Loveday • DOP: Ali Asad • ED: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey • DES: Matthew Button • CAST: Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Eamonn Walker, Sean Harris
My first impressions of this British thriller were decidedly mixed. The credits play against a backdrop of stunning Highland scenery, but the photography is undermined by the god-awful rent-a-Celt soundtrack. Also I have a thing about movies telling you the names of fictional characters in the opening titles. ‘Holly Boyd plays Anna’, the credits proudly tell us, as if at this point we are supposed to know or care who Anna is. This mix of the sublime and ridiculous continues as we are introduced to three mountain climbers (Melissa George, Ed Speleers and Alec Newman) halfway up a treacherous ascent. Again the scene is excitingly directed by Julian Gilbey, but the performances don’t meet the same standard and the characterisation is flat. George plays hard as nails American Alison. When one of her group almost gets them killed through a lapse in concentration she tells him to ‘up his game’. See how hard and American she is. The unfortunate recipient is Speleers as Ed, an English boy out of his element in Scotland – spelled out for us by his professed preference for Roger Moore over Sean Connery (how gauche). Their conversations around the kitchen table feel tired and fail to generate any chemistry.
But then, again, things pick up as the movie’s plot kicks in. There is a terrific sequence when our heroes make a horrifying discovery in the woods and a little later there’s a hair-raising descent down a cliff face. The characters’ plan to respond to their discovery is a pretty thinly veiled excuse to send them down the aforementioned cliff. It’s the type of idea you’d come up with if you were playing at adventure rather than in one, but the sequences in the woods and mountains are so well handled it’s hard to begrudge the film. I found myself carried along, twisting my face in an empathic wince at every bump and fall.
Sadly it’s not long before the film loses the run of itself and this time it never really recovers. A slew of characters are introduced and all of a sudden the remote Scottish locations seem like a very crowded place to die. By the time the location shifts it all just seems a but silly. But for all that, it’s never dull and when the film is in it’s element (in the early stages in the wild) it’s thrilling, visceral and almost worth seeing for these moments alone.
Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
A Lonely Place to Die is released on 9th September 2011