Review: Carl Tibbett's Retreat, starring Cillian Murphy (Fantasia 2011)

Carl Tibbett's Retreat, starring Cillian Murphy (Fantasia 2011)
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PLOT: Kate (Thandie Newton), and Martin (Cillian Murphy), are reeling from a personal tragedy that’s caused a rift in their marriage. To reignite their failing relationship, they travel to a remote island in Wales, where they once spent a blissful holiday. After a few uneventful days, they stumble upon the washed up body of Jack (Jamie Bell). Badly knocked up, and near delirious, Jack- who’s armed with a revolver, explains that he’s a soldier stationed at a nearby science base, which has just fallen victim to a deadly viral outbreak, and insists that they barricade themselves in their rented cottage. With their CB radio not working, the couple has no choice but to play along with Jack’s story- but is he as a crazy as they think, or is he telling the truth?

REVIEW: RETREAT is exactly the kind of thriller I like- being a solid, well-crafted, intelligent three character piece, more interested in telling a good story then bombarding the audience with gore. Taking place on a moody, gloomy, island in Wales, it’s a wonderful debut for writer-director Carl Tibbett, who show some real flair behind the camera.

However, a film like RETREAT, which is admittedly light on action, and heavy on dialogue and emotion (nothing wrong with that), is the kind of film that lives and dies by its cast. Luckily, Tibbett has pulled together a doozy. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfectly cast recent thriller than RETREAT, with Thandie Newton, Cillian Murphy, and Jamie Bell fitting their characters to a tee, and infusing the film with a hefty emotional core that one doesn’t often find in genre films.

They’re the classic triangle, with the Murphy character being the intellectual, Bell being the brute force, and Newton being the woman caught in the middle. The dynamic is perfect. Murphy and Newton are convincing as the troubled married couple, as they really give off the vibe of a once loving couple that has just completely forgotten how to relate to each other. Ironically, it’s exactly the kind of menace brought by Bell’s character that they need in order to find each other again. They keep it real, and raw, and even in the early scenes before Bell enters the picture, their relationship is intriguing.

It’s also refreshing that both are portrayed three-dimensionally, with Newton being a cold bitch at times, but Murphy himself also being occasionally thick-headed, and averse to any confrontation. Unusual for a lot of films like this, they feel like real people.

That said this is Jamie Bell’s movie. You won’t believe that the same guy playing aggressor here is that lad who once warmed audiences’ hearts as BILLY ELLIOT. Bell, in films like this and JANE EYRE, has really grown into a great character actor, and this is maybe the best adult role I’ve seen him in so far. Like Murphy and Newton, he’s three-dimensional, and he walks a fine line as Jack- being neither overly rational to make you sure that the plague is actually a real threat- but at the same time, not clearly crazy either.

While RETREAT is without a doubt all about the acting, the technical specs are also very solid, with it looking like it had a healthy budget. The location cinematography is Wales is gorgeous, and gives the film a moody atmosphere similar to old Val Lewton flicks like ISLE OF THE DEAD. The music, by Ilan Eshkeri, is sparse, but effective, and thankfully, never overpowering or maudlin.

RETREAT is without a doubt going to pick up some serious buzz after hitting Fantasia, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see this get some play stateside in a few months. Anyone who prefers their thrillers to take a moodier, low-key approach would be well advised to check this out.

Extra Tidbit: The Arrow's own review of the film will surface on the site shortly.



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