Review: Julian Gilbey's A Lonely Place to Die, starring Melissa George (Fantasia 2011)

Julian Gilbey's A Lonely Place to Die, starring Melissa George (Fantasia 2011)
8 10

PLOT: A group of mountaineers, on vacation in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon a kidnapped Russian girl named Anna. The climbers, led by the heroic Alison (Melissa George), try to get the girl to safety, while being stalked by the girl's bloodthirsty captors.

REVIEW: Rock climbing scares the bejesus out of me. The only time I ever tried it was back in my college days, when I scaled a practice wall in gym class. It nearly made me nautious, and I imagine that if I was actually on a mountain, with no friendly gym teacher around to make sure I didn't break my neck, I would only last a few minutes before starting a whimpering rappel back to the ground.

Suffice to say, the premise of A LONELY PLACE TO DIE, which involves a ton of rock climbing without ropes (I feel faint just writing that), while being shot at by psychotic, kidnapping snipers, made me queasy- but in a good way. A lot of people have compared A LONELY PLACE TO DIE to the Sly Stallone classic CLIFFHANGER (classic to me anyway), but A LONELY PLACE TO DIE is a much more starkly realistic adventure, with none of Sly's wild heroics. It's a tight survival thriller through and through.

From the time the climbers find the kidnapped girl, the pacing of A LONELY PLACE TO DIE hurls forward like a freight train. By the time the credits roll, you'll be gasping for breath. First and foremost, it's a terrific action vehicle for Melissa George, who cuts a very Sigourney Weaver-like figure as Alison- an adrenaline-craving hiker who immediately steps up to lead everyone to safety once the shit hits the fan. The rest of the hikers are a tad anonymous (although I recognized Ed Speelers from ERAGON- as the requisite team slacker), but as this is George's film through and through, so that's not really a problem.

I have no idea how much of the climbing George did herself, but I'm assuming she did a fare share, as some of the shots of her dangling from mountains looked pretty damn realistic to me. The climbing scenes in this film are brilliantly shot against the picturesque highlands, although the premise gives them a sinister edge that contradicts their beauty. However, nature is not the real villain here. Instead, that role is taken by Sean Harris, of the great RED RIDING TRILOGY, who plays Anna's cold-blooded captor.

Harris really steals the show and makes his character one of the better action-movie villains I've seen in a while. There's a scene later in the film where he tells a story about an earlier kidnapping that went wrong that gives him a three-dimensionality that makes him even more frightening.

Director Julian Gilbey- usually an editor (on such films as last year's Fantasia offering DOGHOUSE), does an incredible job keeping the tension going throughout the film's tight 100 minute running time, and sure enough edited the film himself (along with his brother). The last half hour actually takes a turn that takes George off the mountain, and introduces more characters played by Karel Roden, and Eamonn Walker (who was fantastic on HBO's OZ). This could have completely set the film off-course, but if anything, it gets even more intense- thanks to the incorporating of a creepy small-town parade, and a really solid musical score by Michael Plowman.

Suffice to say, A LONELY PLACE TO DIE is a rock-solid action-adventure/thriller, and an early highlight of the Fantasia Film Festival. Judging from the reaction of the audience I saw this with, it's a real crowd-pleaser, and hopefully something that will be arriving in North American theaters before long (it opens in September in the UK).



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