Cinema Review: A Lonely Place to Die

Should've stayed at home

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.

Geoff McEvoy

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
A Lonely Place to Die is released on 9th September 2011

 

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Triangle

Triangle

DIR/WRI: Christopher Smith • PRO: Julie Baines, Chris Brown, Jason Newmark • DOP: Robert Humphreys • ED: Stuart Gazzard • DES: Melinda Doring • CAST: Melissa George, Liam Hemsworth, Emma Lung, Rachel Carpani

A group of friends set sail off the coast of Florida, presumably towards the Bermuda Triangle, though this is never mentioned. All seems well except for Jess (George), who shows up haunted and exhausted. She is vague when asked about the whereabouts of her son and despite her best efforts is having trouble socialising. Soon, they have found themselves victim to a storm, leaving them shipwrecked. Eventually a ship arrives and they board it, expecting salvation but receiving a mess of time loops, murder and identity crises.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that despite how messy the plot seems, the script has been written with great care and thought. As each twist unfurls, it nicely fits into the questions that have previously been set up. As is often the case with time loop stories, Triangle seems unsure of how to end itself. However, it does manage to bring about a decent denouement, though the final scenes don’t quite explain themselves as nicely as it could have.

The film’s weakness lies in its tired premise. It is decidedly similar in design and tone to a particular episode of The X Files (incidentally called Triangle) and feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone except it’s dragged out for an extra hour, or the entire plot of Lost squeezed into a movie. There’s nothing cinematic here, therefore nothing to justify another time loop story making its way to the public. The amateurish CGI doesn’t help either!

Having said that, the film does entertain and it maintains a nice level of paranoia. Melissa George’s performance is consistently cold and distracted, always keeping the audience wondering what had happened before her arrival on the boat. As the third act begins and everything begins to make sense, Jess’s primal maternal urges begin to make sense and thus the film becomes an insightful psychological thriller.

This is by no means an original story, nor is it the most satisfying, but it is a decent thriller and credit must be given for the careful script, the melancholy tone and the snappy pacing. It’s not one for repeated viewing, but if you’re a fan of mind games, this is actually rather satisfying.

Charlene Lydon
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Triangle
is released on 16th Oct 2009
Triangle – Official Website

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Waz

Waz
Waz

DIR: Tom Shankland• WRI: • PRO: Michael Casey, Allan Niblo, James Richardson • DOP: Morten Søborg • ED: Tim Murrell • DES: Ashleigh Jeffers • CAST: Stellan Skarsgård, Melissa George, Selma Blair, Ashley Walters, Tom Hardy, Paul Kaye

‘There will be pain.’ What Waz promises, it delivers. Waz is going to be a divisive picture, people will either dismiss it as ‘torture porn’ or look at it for what it is: a smart, well-made entertaining horror-thriller that is at turns harrowing, clever and brutal. Filmed on location in New York and Belfast, location is utilized brilliantly, reflecting the characters’ interior lives – Stellan Skarsgård’s hardboiled, tormented detective, Melissa George’s emotionally scarred rookie and the maniacal glee of Selma Blair perfectly mirror the grainy cityscape.

When the body of a pregnant woman is fished out of a river with the letters ‘Waz’ carved into her stomach, Argo (Skarsgård) and squeamish rookie Westcott (Melissa George) are assigned the case. ‘Waz’ is part of an equation that proves there is no such thing as altruism in nature. The killer is coercing people into torturing their loved ones to death. When Westcott discovers a former case was thrown out of court, she realises that Argo and the killer share a deadly secret.

Waz is the directorial debut of writer Clive Bradley and director Tom Shankland and one of the most interesting and thought-provoking films of the year. Could you butcher a loved one? Selma Blair seethes pure hatred, but Melissa George is unfortunately given very little to do, which is a shame because her character is intriguing. Skarsgård is the real gem of the film and he shines (or bleeds profusely) in the film’s nihilistic denouement.

The film has moderately good direction, excellent camera-work and it will be interesting to see where this director goes next. But be warned, this film is at times excruciating to watch.
Waz works because it seems to be quite straightforward; the killer showing up thirty minutes into the film, the noirish story-specifics which lead you to believe that you know where the writer is taking you only for you to stand on a plot landmine which detonates in your face. A unique indie horror/thriller, if only other horror writers and directors would take note, perhaps we could occasionally be given horror with a mind (and a heart) behind it.

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