Though I knew none of the stars and none of the filmmakers behind it, I was won over by the plot description of A Lonely Place to Die despite the wretched title. Luckily the movie lives up to its clever premise, and even went beyond my initial expectations and delivered a well-plotted, exciting thriller-adventure.
Alison (Melissa George, 30 Days of Night) and four friends are on a mountain climbing exhibition in the Scottish Highlands. Though the group seems rather laid back — it even has an obviously inexperienced climber, Ed (Ed Speleers), along for the trip — things suddenly become serious when the group inadvertently stumbles upon a shivering, starving young girl buried in a small wooden chamber who doesn’t speak English. The group decides to do the altruistic thing by bringing the girl to safety, but soon find themselves the targets of two gunmen who obviously want the girl. Who this girl is and why they are being pursued for helping her are questions the group doesn’t even have to time to answer if they’re going to make it out of the remote mountains alive. Complicating things further is another group that arrives looking for the girl as well.
There was a lot I liked about this movie — the script, written by brothers Julian Gilbey and William Gilbey (the pair also edited the movie, and Julian also directed and co-produced the film) puts a clever spin on the classic cat-and-mouse thriller plot, and they are smart enough to move the action off the mountains after a few action sequences to freshen up the scenery. Speaking of which, the cinematography by Ali Asad is simply beautiful, with incredible wide shots of the mountains and tight askew angles when the climbers are hanging off the bluffs. The later night sequences — shot during some sort of mummers parade with fireworks and fire dancers — are equally impressive. Most of the other actors fit the typical thriller/horror movie roles, which tells you all you need to know about their ultimate fates.
In thrillers actors commonly don’t have to do much beyond looking afraid or threatening, depending on which side of the action they’re on. So it was welcoming to see an actor like Karel Roden (Hellboy, The Bourne Supremacy, RocknRolla) make an appearance as a tough-as-steel negotiator. He has a fantastic scene that really shows why he’s always a standout in movies he appears in.
A Lonely Place to Die didn’t get much of a release here in the United States, and I don’t think the film’s title and cover — which seems to suggest it’s a movie more like 127 Hours, which it definitely isn’t — helped in that regard. But this is one IFC Midnight release that I was really impressed by. While it does suffer from some of the usual thriller conventions, the Gilbey brothers have put enough of a unique spin on the genre to make this movie worth watching.
Film Review: I’ve never seen a low-budget thriller look this good, and it’s got it’s fair share of awesome with its clever plot twists. (8/10)
DVD Review: You get the trailer and that’s it. It’s really a shame, because I would’ve loved to see a short feature on the film’s breathtaking cinematography. (1/10)
A Lonely Place to Die is available on DVD on March 20 from IFC Midnight.