Retreat Movie Review
Written by Charlotte Stear
Movie released by Vertigo Films
Written and directed by Carl Tibbetts
2011, 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD and Blu-ray released on 14th October 2011
Thandie Newton as Kate
Cillian Murphy as Martin
Jamie Bell as Jack
Any film that centres on home invasion has the capability to really shake up and involve an audience. Retreat deals with that very thing, but also takes it a step further as the story becomes more of a life invasion. But can it cope with its isolated setting and small cast to really capture our attention?
Retreat follows a couple, Martin (Cillian Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton), as they take a break to a cottage on a remote island, a place they have previously visited in happier times. During their first few days they experience problems with their generator and the radio, their one connection to the outside world. While waiting for help they spot a young soldier who has washed up on shore (Jamie Bell), and they take him in. Once he awakes, he tells them of an epidemic that has broken out and is killing people instantly. Their only way of survival is to barricade themselves in the house and wait for help. Their dilemma is instant; can this couple trust this stranger as he takes over their lives?
Retreat isn’t a film that can be easily defined; it has a mix of genres. It deals with this invasion of privacy as previously noted, but paranoia is also a major theme in the film. The audience are none the wiser than the couple, so we are kept guessing whether this guy is telling the truth or if he has an ulterior motive. There are also the marital problems between the couple and how that effects their ability to get through the situation they have found themselves in.
This is director Carl Tibbets’ first film and it’s quite an achievement to get the cast he did with no previous credits, the one thing that stands out more than anything is the fantastic acting. Each actor is playing a character that we haven’t really seen them play before. Jamie Bell as Jack is pretty terrifying, and he makes it very easy to dislike him quickly. Cillian Murphy as Martin is playing the “nice guy”, but there are so many times when you feel he just needs to “man up”, not his usual kind of role either. Thandie Newton also excels in her part as Kate, a woman torn about her past, cold and aloof to her husband. One thing that really comes over to the audience is the tension in their relationship.
The problem with the film is it doesn’t reach its full potential. It is very slow to start and there are times when it feels like it should be a lot more stressful to the viewer than it actually is. I never fully connected to the story, there were too many opportunities for them to maybe get out of their situation which is troubling to any viewer (a lot of sighs and rolling of the eyes occurred for me). For example, another home invasion film played at Grimm Up North was the Spanish film Kidnapped, for the entirety of the film I was on edge and at many times felt sick due to stress. Retreat does not come close in that respect and this has a lot to do with little character development and flaws in the story.
The location is perfect; it's an interesting, small quaint house that will have been hard to shoot in, but is a great place to set this story as it adds to their claustrophobic situation. There’s also the grey, drab weather that compliments the struggle the couple have during their stay there, it wouldn’t have the same effect had it been a summer trip that’s for sure.
The film’s ending does stick with you after you’ve watched it which was one element I did enjoy. It’s an interesting concept, I’m just not sure it was executed in the best way especially the first 30 minutes of the film, which is an essential time to involve your audience with the characters. But there was nothing to bond with on screen so ultimately an involvement with the story never fully progresses. It’s not a terrible film by any means, it’s just one that makes you think of others that have done it better.
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