A Lonely Place to Die (Film Review)
Deep in the Scottish wilderness, miles away from the nearest town of Inverness, a group of friends have descended for the weekend. This group is here to a mountaineering trip. The morning after the night before they head to the mountain peak to resume their climbing, however before they reach said peak one of them hears a whisper on the wind. Upon further investigation it is a girl buried underground with only an air pipe and a bottle of water for company. They pay heed to their nobility and rescue the girl. Unfortunately, there was a reason the girl was there. She is a kidnap victim and the kidnappers aren’t happy that their income has been interfered with. The group attempts to negotiate the pitfalls of nature to get the girl to safety while they are being hunted down by some very unpleasant people.
Director Julian Gilbey, (Rise of the Foot Soldier), has crafted what can only be described as the British Cliffhanger. There is more to this film, yes; however it would be a massive oversight to not acknowledge the abundant similarities. Both films are action thrillers which make great use of natural beauty of some of the more picturesque and mountainous areas of the world. When this film shines, it glows thanks to the photography by Ali Asad. In the first 10 minutes there is a plethora of shots that could be used in a promotional campaign for Scottish tourism, it’s very stirring stuff. Alas this isn’t played up like it should be, after the first climb these magnificent vistas are all but forgotten.
The structure of the film plays out like a chase scene, making this one of those increasingly rare novelties. A lonely place to die is a thriller that is thrilling. While the action is still in the woods, the claustrophobic yet open environment is used to great effect with some shockingly out of the blue deaths. It’s not a spoiler to say they are deaths, its par for the course with a film that plays out with a strong resemblance to the slasher. These instant hits give the allure that anything can happen at any time, I really respect a film that can pull this off successfully.
It’s elsewhere where the film starts to collapse under its own weight. Even before the brown stuff hits the fan, our heroes are being inexplicably hunted by people not involved with the kidnapping plot. It beggars belief that hunters would succumb to hunting the public when bored. Instead of making sense within the confines of reality, this is a transparent means to arm the antagonists. Towards the end, there is pagan carnival which serves only to provide one of the murderous kidnappers with a horrific pig mask as well as set dressing. Yes, we get it that these people are disgusting we don’t a mask to visualise this after all the murdering he has done.
The morality and logic displayed by the characters also leaves a lot to be desired, simply because it adopts such a monotone world view. The female characters adopt a maternal instinct, mothering the kidnapped Hannah. In other words women are defined by their emotions, very modern of the scriptwriters. The men, in contrast, are much more logical, in fact Ed (Ed Speleers) theorises exactly what is happening but is ignored due to the maternal instincts of Alison (George). It’s not exactly a crowning glory of the medium, if truth be told, it symbolises perfectly the cardboard nature of the cast.
Cut-outs they may be but that doesn’t mean the acting is awful, anonymous yes, awful no. Speleers is fine as the archetypal sceptic and Sean Harris is menacing at the best time. Menacingly and mumbled, at times he talks in a low octave and it becomes very hard to make out what he says. This usually happens at the worst time possible too, when he is delivering a monologue detailing the lengths he goes to with his ‘job’, all but removing his fangs from these scenes. Best of all is Melissa George, who imposes herself on the film. Without her it would be a much harder film to watch.
A lonely place to die is far from a bad film, for stretches the opposite is true. It’s a beautifully shot thriller that does exactly what it says on the tin. But there are problems consistently arising, from the politics of the ending to the logic and morality. Yet in spite of all this, Gilbey has made a solid addition to the renaissance of British genre cinema.