A Lonely Place to Die
Directed by Julian Gilbey
Written by Julian Gilbey and William Gilbey
Starring Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris, and Karel Roden
IFC Films/MPI Media Group
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Alison (Melissa George) and her friends Ed (Ed Speleers) and Rob (Alec Newman) along with marrieds Alex (Garry Sweeney) and Jenny (Kate Macgowan) have traveled to the Scottish Highlands for a relaxing vacation of peace, quiet, and a little intense mountain climbing. One day the group finds their vacation brought to a dead standstill when they discover a barely alive little girl named Anna (Holly Boyd) being held prisoner buried under the ground. They dig her out and decide to head for the nearest village to call for help, but en route they realize that they’re being hunted by the forces that put Anna in the ground to begin with – notorious kidnappers Kidd (Sean Harris) and McRae (Stephen McCole). The criminals have taken the young girl who doesn’t speak a word of English with the intention of holding her for ransom and are prepared to see their devious scheme to the end even if it means taking a few more lives than they originally intended. It’s up to Alison and her friends to brave treacherous bluffs and raging rivers to get Anna to safety without losing their lives to Kidd and McRae, who have their own problems in the form of a resourceful mercenary (Eamonn Walker) and a company man (Karel Roden) who has been hired by Anna’s mysterious father to bring her back at all costs.
Confession time: I have a paralyzing fear of heights. No amount of monsters conjured up by deviant imaginations and visual FX wizards could frighten me as much as climbing to any height greater than 15 feet and then looking down. I don’t enjoy feeling helpless, but when I realize that I’m on a rickety ladder with no one watching my back and my distance from the ground could cause me serious injury or death, I just want to climb down slowly and curl up in a ball somewhere for a few hours. Okay, I might be exaggerating a tad. Recently I watched a video of a man climbing one of the tallest radio towers and even though the screen was the size of a playing card and I was watching it on my laptop that didn’t stop my head from spinning. It’s hard for me to even watch the Dubai skyscraper sequence in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and I love that movie.
But this is all meaningless because A Lonely Place to Die, as great a movie as it is, doesn’t have much to do with mountain climbing. When you compare it to movies like Cliffhanger and Vertical Limit the mountains aren’t even there. There’s more rock climbing in the opening sequence of Star Trek V than there is here. That doesn’t prevent A Lonely Place to Die from being a great little thriller that takes the premise of a cat-and-mouse pursuit in an isolated environment and often turns it on its ear.
In the opening moments we meet our principal characters and their personalities and relationships are established swiftly and efficiently. Once they find Anna all bets are off and director Julian Gilbey, who also wrote and edited the movie with his brother William Gilbey, never lets up on the tension and suspense as our protagonists are thrust into a life-and-death struggle against remorseless adversaries. There are some spectacular location photography courtesy of Ali Asad and effectively staged action sequences. The relationship between the vulnerable Alison and the traumatized Anna becomes central in the film’s third act set in a Scottish village during a street festival where the various characters and their conflicting motives meet up and the body count starts to rise.
The recurring theme of A Lonely Place to Die is the physical and spiritual isolation felt by nearly every one of the characters, from the distrust felt by Anna towards her would-be saviors fighting for their lives and hers, to the disillusionment of Walker’s mercenary when he realizes just who he’s working for.
The character work in this movie is mighty sketchy at times but the casting more than compensates for the shortcomings of the screenplay. The standouts are George and Walker but Sean Harris and Karen Roden really surprised me. Harris in particular has a chilling monologue where he recounts to Roden in a village cafe a story of another child he kidnapped that is one of the best scenes in the movie. But it is Roden, best known for playing over-the-top villains in movies like Hellboy and Bulletproof Monk, who steals his most crucial scene with Harris while speaking barely above a whisper. The warring motivations and psychological complexities of the individuals who hold Anna’s future in their hands elevates A Lonely Place to Die from being a passable suspense flick to a much darker film with a greater impact than the majority of cinematic thrillers can muster these days.
MPI and IFC Films have presented A Lonely Place to Die in a gorgeous 2.35: 1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that strongly preserves its amazing cinematography and gives its non-action scenes great visual clarity.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided.
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 soundtracks balance out the dialogue and music score just fine, but unless you have a top-notch home theater system I would recommend playing the film with the 2.0 track as I could barely make out what the characters were saying because of the low volume of the dialogue. The thick accents didn’t help matters either. The English subtitles came in very handy.
The only extras are a trailer for the film and upfront previews for The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, Undocumented, Spiderhole, and Sleeping Beauty.
A Lonely Place to Die isn’t an original film, but it is a weighty and riveting thriller with crisp photography and action sequences that delivers a lot of white knuckle suspense on a modest budget. Coupled with a strong video and audio presentation I would recommend this movie as a definite rent as a lack of substantial extras keeps it from being a recommended buy.