Monday, 26 December 2011

Blu-Ray Review: A Lonely Place To Die

Directed By Julian Gilbey 

Starring Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris, Eamonn Walker 

A group of five mountaineers are hiking and climbing in the Scottish Highlands when they discover a young Serbian girl buried in a small chamber in the wilderness. They become caught up in a terrifying game of cat and mouse with the kidnappers as they try to get the girl to safety. 

I was expecting this to be a survival horror and found it was more of a tense thriller, that had the threat of scenes in keeping with the survival horror genre. I kept an open mind to the movie, especially as I do like Melissa George. She has had a good run of playing strong characters and I was hoping that this movie would give her another chance at doing what she does so well. I wasn’t disappointed in her portrayal as Alison. To say that she carries the movie is a little unfair on the splendid performances from the rest of the cast, but the movie does centre on her character. 
From the beginning it is apparent that the Directors have spent much time and trouble locating remote Scottish places that would look breathtaking on camera. The majority of the movie is very realistic, especially with the opening sequence’s footage of the climbers. At one point I marveled at the way that Gibley and Ali Asad (director of photography) showed a guy hanging from the mountain face. The sheer terror is brought home from the way in which a couple of shots were inserted; those from an inverted position, really giving the audience an idea of what it could be like to hang suspended. I haven’t seen this done properly and so evocatively in a big budget movie before. If ever a remake of Cliffhanger was on the cards, these guys need to be offered the chance to make it. 
The film’s first act is concerned with setting up the characters as mountaineers and to show Alison’s dedication and experience of it. One of the group hears, what to me, sounded like Carol Anne in the TV set during the movie Poltergeist. Upon investigation, they discover a young girl. Anna (played by the excellent Holly Boyd) and the movie moves from exciting Scottish travelogue to a cat and mouse chase through unforgiving landscape that made me think of First Blood. The group are hunted by two guys with high powered rifles. The pair are crack shots and Gilbey shows us this a number of times. Apart from one “Rambo” moment when Alison takes a tumble and falls some distance with trees breaking her fall, the movie pulls the viewer in with its realistic approach. Eventually, additional characters are introduced and participate as the survivors converge on a small town in the middle of a street party (based upon the Beltane Fire festival). Once the characters enter the village I was reminded a little of the action movie The Tournament. This is no bad thing as the ante is well and truly upped with no holds barred gunfights and brawls. The film is pacy, tense and thrilling, despite the last act that strays well away from the established location referred to in the title.
Melissa George must have gone through a punishing shoot to complete this picture in what comes across as a very physical movie, despite how frequently a stuntwoman might have taken over during the more punishing scenes, not that it’s obvious either way if she had of done. She puts everything into her performance and even gets a Jack Bauer moment at one point in the film. (To elaborate will spoil the movie but 24 fans will get my meaning upon viewing the movie).

This is UK cinema on top form. It looks and feels uniquely British and is the old idea of a cat and mouse hunt but put from a unique perspective. Enjoyably action-packed and highly recommended. 

Blu-ray Comments:
The disc is full of interesting extras; from a commentary that is useful due to the technical information given throughout and a seventy minute making of. There is also an interesting featurette on Julian Gilbey getting the climbing bug and climbing the French and Swiss Alps to raise money for Cancer charities. The disc is available at Amazon at £10.79 (as at 26/12/11); a great way to start 2012!

Score: 8/10

Thursday, 1 December 2011

TV Review: The Walking Dead 2.07-"If they move, kill em"

I was all set to review episode 2.07 of The Walking Dead. It blew me away and had me almost in tears. It was a powerful, horrible way to end the mid-season, but it was done so beautifully I had to share my views. But, I read Darren Franich's great recap, that was so good it took the wind out of my sails. Why try to better it. Truth is, I can't. Read it here:

 My additional thoughts:
Franich captures much of how I felt about the episode. Jon Bernthal definitely deserves an award for his performance, but then most actors in this do.
2.07 had Frank Darabont's stamp all over it. Each character had something to do, well most; T-Dog still seems superfluous and potential zombie bait in the second half of the season. When the end comes and Sophia's fate is revealed, it's not so much a shock as perfectly built-up to and emotionally heart-wrenching. It's more the character's reactions that pulls at the heart strings and Bear McCreary's emotive music. Seeing Carl and his mother in such grief was painful. The look of shock and horror on each face is focused on. Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene is fantastic in this scene as various feelings flit across his face: From sadness to a kind of "I told you so, now you depersonalise these things" look.
Like the end of The Mist, the direction (from the very talented Michelle McClaren) doesn't let you off the hook with what you should be experiencing and what the characters are very much feeling. Incidentally, one shot reminded me of some artwork from Stephen King's The Gunslinger. After Shane and co have blasted most of the zombies from the barn, the foreground is taken up with the finally dead corpses, similar to this:

A page from The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

Not the exact shot that I meant but close

COMING SOON: Graphic Novel to TV show comparisons....