Today: April 17, 2024
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A Lonely Place To Die

British films are like buses. You wait ages for a decent one, then a convoy turns up.

British films are like buses. You wait ages for a decent one, then a convoy turns up.

Last week saw
the release of Kill
List
, Ben Wheatley’s hellbound hitman
flick. Next week, we have Tomas Alfredson’s masterful take on John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the chilliest of Cold War spy
tales. Sandwiched between the two
is Julian Gilbey’s A Lonely Place To Die, a genuine, bona
fide, balls to the wall, action movie.

A mixed bag of
middle class, weekend climbers; tough, resourceful Alison (Melissa George), twattish new boy Ed (Speleers), Zen climber Rob (Alec
Newman
) and married couple Jenny and Alex (Magowan & Sweeney)
swap the cutthroat world of the city for the remote wilderness of the Scottish
Highlands where they intend to get drunk, relax and climb a couple of
mountains. After bad weather
kiboshes their plans to tackle the local peak, they decide to spend the day
hiking. But their walk in the
woods takes a turn for the seriously dark and scary when Ed stumbles upon a young
girl (Holly Boyd) buried alive,
trapped in an underground cell with an air pipe her only link to the
surface. Freeing her, the group
realise they’re in way over their heads.
The girl, Anna, is cold, filthy, hungry and speaks no English. And whoever put her in the hole can’t
be far away… So begins a
breathless, cross-country chase as the friends try to get the girl to the
relative safety of a nearby town with remorseless kidnappers (Harris & McCole) in hot pursuit.

Opening with a
sweaty-palmed, nausea-inducing climbing scene that would give a mountain goat
vertigo, as cocky Ed cocks up and almost kills himself and Alison, A Lonely Place To Die hits the ground
running and never let’s up. And
that’s before keen amateur climber Gilbey throws a stolen child, two murderous
kidnappers and a couple of mercenaries hired by her father into the mix. The script is refreshingly taut and
minimalist; no lengthy backstories, no superfluous romance, no snappy
Tarantino-esque dialogue. The
spasms of violence when they come are sudden, shocking and painful. Gilbey knows his way around an action
scene, and he lets his camera and the stunning, Scots panorama do the talking,
creating some genuinely thrilling set-pieces as his characters battle killers
and the landscape for survival.
While the film loses a little focus with the last act introduction of
the mercenaries (led by Oz alumnus Eamonn Walker) and a cluttered
climactic chase through the middle of a paganistic Beltane festival (gorgeous,
body-painted, naked fire-breathing chicks and gorgeous Scottish
countryside! The Scottish Tourist
really should put Gilbey on retainer), the furious momentum of the film sweeps
you along, never giving you time to even breathe let alone question the plot.

Having carved
something of a niche for herself as a scream queen in movies like Triangle, Paradise Lost and The
Amityville Horror
remake, Melissa George makes for a likeably tough,
ballsy, action girl. A compelling
mix of steel and vulnerability there’s a refreshing sense of peril as she is
put through the physical and emotional wringer, falling off mountains,
clambering over rocks, shooting rapids and facing off against Sean Harris and
Stephen McCole’s sociopathic kidnappers who are quite simply the nastiest
b*stards you’re going to see onscreen this side of Xavier Gen’s The Divide. Harris, as usual, is on fine twitchy
rodent form but McCole, probably best known for Scots stoner sit-com High Times
or Justin Molotnikov’s Crying With Laughter, is fantastic a menacing bear of a man,
physically dominating the frame.
Particularly good in what could be a real make-or-break role for him is
former dragon-tamer (Eragon) Ed
Speleers. Starting out as the unlikable, cocky, whiny twat of the
group who you hope is the first to take a bullet in the face, Speleers morphs
slowly, believably, into a realistically reluctant hero whose painful, hard-won
redemption the audience actually roots for.

Dark, tense and
violent, A Lonely Place To Die is a
dizzying, adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster ride of a movie.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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