Ahoy, squirts! Quint here freshly in from the Fantasia screening of A Lonely Place To Die, which has taken the spot of my favorite movie I’ve seen at the fest so far.
First off, this is the best looking Red 1 movie I’ve ever seen. It could have been the fact that it was digital photography on a film print that made it more filmic than most Red-shot movies, but I have to give a lot of credit to director Julian Gilbey for picking the Scottish Highlands and to DP Ali Asad for shooting them so well.
Melissa George stars as part of a group of mountain climbers out in the Highlands on a vacation of sorts. She’s one of the more experienced climbers in this group of friends and her skills are truly put to the test when the shit hits the fan. And boy does it ever.
This group of super nice mountain climbing people hear a whisper on the wind, which sounded strangely like Carol Anne talking to the Freelings through the TV set to me, and trace it back to a pipe sticking out of the ground. What happens after that is one of the best action thrillers I’ve seen in recent years that is filled with edge-of-your-seat tension, “oh fuck!” surprises and sympathy pains as our poor leads get banged up, beaten, shot, dunked, slammed and just generally have an unpleasant time.
Now, this isn’t a survival horror picture, but I would classify it as a survival picture. It’s much more of an action/adventure film. The bad guys are hardly supernatural, definitely not slashers or hillbilly rapists or any other woodsy/mountainy horror cliché. The pipe our group finds leads to a buried box containing a frightened little girl who doesn’t speak English. The men who put her there certainly aren’t happy about her being removed and it becomes a bit of a hunter/prey situation as the climbers try to get her off the mountain and to a small village.
I don’t want to say much more for fear of ruining some of the twists and turns this film takes because I’m sure you will all get a chance to see it. If I’m not mistaken it hasn’t picked up US Distribution yet, which boggles the mind because it’s an easy sell. The production value is crazy good, you can cut an epic awesome trailer for it and Melissa George doesn’t talk all funny, so maybe an American distributor won’t be shit-scared that US audiences won’t go see it.
While I don’t want to go into more story detail, I will say that director Julian Gilbey finds a pacing that I always look for in these kinds of movies. The closest comparison I can make is Die Hard. Wait, hold on… I didn’t just compare them as movies, so put the pitchforks down. The stories are radically different, but something that a lot of action movies don’t get about Die Hard is that after a tipping point (namely the arrival of Hans in Die Hard and the discovery of the pipe sticking out of the ground in A Lonely Place to Die) it is rocketing towards the finale. Even the quiet moments feel like they’re still shooting for the end credits.
That pacing is definitely here and just like in Die Hard our characters get fucked up. Everything has a price. If you want to jump into a fast-moving stream you’re going to pay a price. You’re not going to Schwarzenegger it and lazily swim to the muddy bank, you’re going to get hurt (or worse).
Although, I will say one minor nitpick with the movie is there are a few times that Melissa George get hurt much less than she should be. There’s a fall into a tree that she takes that looks like it should have broken about half her ribs. She doesn’t get up and walk away, really, but she has a very minor period of recovery that I did notice.
However, one or two small instances aside there’s a focus on the real world implications of this kind of thriller, an approach that keeps that feeling of danger on the forefront.
Not only do our characters have to fight the environment, but they also have to avoid the sniper rifle-wielding bad guys, so again it feels like Gilbey was making this movie just for me. I love snipers in movies, it’s a bit of a cine-fetish of mine and probably the reason why I have an unhealthy love for Enemy at the Gates.
All the script elements are there, the right tone and pace, sharp direction, beautiful cinematography and great performances all around, including Ed Speleers who has thankfully shrugged off the stench of Eragon and plays a great semi-douchey/semi-heroic character here. Melissa George is a great, strong female lead and gives one of the better performances of her career here. I have a feeling we’re maybe a year or two away from her being given an iconic role in something massive. She’s got the talent and the beauty. She’s just old enough to be a real woman’s woman. If the cinema Gods are friendly she’ll become a massive star.
There are also good turns by Eomonn Walker, Karel Roden and young Holly Boyd, but the stand-out bad guy performance here is Sean Harris (pictured above), who has a part in the upcoming Prometheus. It’s not surprising to me that Ridley Scott picked him, especially when you see him deliver a speech here that is filled with equal amounts of heartbreak and blistering coldness.
I think that’s just about all I have to say about this movie. Watch it when you get a chance. For you UK readers that’ll be FrightFest and for my Austin friends, it’ll be at Fantastic Fest. For the rest of you folks, I can’t believe a mini-major or even a major-major studio would pass this one up. Too marketable and, more importantly, it’s just too damn good to let slip through the cracks.