A Lonely Place To Die
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, 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.
Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris, Alec Newman, Eamonn Walker, Karel Roden, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney, Stephen McCole, Holly Boyd
Julian Gilbey & Will Gilbey