If you have ever thought about taking up rock climbing as a hobby Brit thriller A Lonely Place To Die, released on Blu-ray and DVD this week, might make you think twice. Director Julian Gilbey, best known for the brutal Rise Of The Footsoldier, takes influence from wilderness thrillers such as Deliverance, First Blood and The River Wild to deliver a gripping suspense film that may be one of the best British films of the year.
A group of five mountaineers are climbing in the remote Scottish Highlands when they make a horrific discovery: a young girl buried in a small chamber, with only a small air pipe to the surface keeping her alive. She is terrified, dehydrated and half-starved. Deciding they must get her to safety, the group embark on a dangerous and nerve-wracking descent.
Unwittingly, they’ve taken charge of a valuable bounty and are being hunted down by the girl’s ruthless kidnappers, who have everything at stake and nothing to lose. Caught in a terrifying game of cat and mouse, they are in mortal danger and there is no easy way out.
Filming on location in the Scottish Highlands Gilbey makes the most of the spectacular scenery giving the film an epic look while at the same time enhancing the isolation of the protagonists. The superb cinematography glides and sweeps around the sheer cliff faces, rolling vistas and raging white-water rivers that stand between the climbers and civilisation and when the game of cat and mouse begins the unforgiving environment takes on its own character by deciding the fate of a number of the cast.
Melissa George is particularly good in the demanding lead role, convincing as an experienced climber and never overplaying as she endures some of the film’s toughest scenes. She seems to be carving herself a niche by appearing in interesting low-budget thrillers such as Triangle and 30 Days Of Night and with this film her CV goes from strength to strength. Support comes from Ed Speleers who after his appearance in the dire Eragon redeems himself here in a much more down to earth role which sees his character step up and take charge as the groups situation takes a turn for the worse.
The real standout performance comes from Sean Harris as Mr. Kidd, the lead kidnapper. Harris is an incredible actor who after memorable turns in the likes of Harry Brown, Creep and The Borgias deserves more exposure for the menacing intensity he brings to the characters he inhabits and his role here is no exception. Mr. Kidd is an unpredictable, slightly unhinged piece of work and makes for a truly unforgettable bad guy.
The violence is unrelenting and realistic. Every fall and broken bone is filmed in such a way that you feel it in the pit of your stomach with breathtaking stunt work and imaginative sound design every impact reverberates. Gilbey along with his co-writer and brother Will, ramp up the tension throughout the film taking full advantage of the remote location and the vertigo inducing locale adding in a few neat twists and surprises along the way.
All is good until the final act where the action reaches a small village and the direction goes a little awry. As all the plot elements and characters collide in the village the film slightly loses its edge leading to a conclusion that does not quite match the thrills of the adrenalin fuelled first half. However by this point I was so involved in the film I was willing to forgive the misstep.
Despite a pretty comprehensive ad campaign the film was pretty much overlooked at the cinema with its release overshadowed by more typical Hollywood summer blockbusters which is a real shame as the film with its spectacular cinematography demands to be seen on a big screen. Gilbey is certainly a talent to watch as on this evidence his film is a tight little thriller with great performances and an engrossing central plot that deserves to be discovered on Blu-ray and DVD.
The 1080p HD transfer is one of the best I have seen in a while. With the original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, colours are crystal clear and the texture of the rock faces and wild environment is beautifully presented enhancing Ali Asad’s excellent cinematography. The transfer copes equally well with daylight and dimly lit night scenes so no detail is lost.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also well presented. The sound of bones breaking and bodies hitting the ground shake the speakers and gun shots crackle from all sides. Dialogue is clear in the mix as is Michael Richard Plowman’s score.
The disc is well served with some decent extras giving a real insight into the story behind the film. The seventy minute making of documentary presented in HD is a comprehensive look at the film making process from initial concept through pre-production and to the film shoot with loads of on-set footage and interviews with the cast and crew. The documentary is enhanced even further by Julian Gilbey’s anecdotal feature length audio commentary.
Also on the disc is a short documentary showing how the Gilbey brothers developed a love of mountain climbing through their work on the film leading them to attempt to climb some of the most famous peaks in the world such as The Matterhorn and The Eiger.
Film – 4 out of 5
A good British thriller that takes full advantage of the Scottish wilderness to deliver vertigo inducing action with a gripping plot and all round great performances from the cast.
Visuals – 4 out of 5
Superb picture quality filling every inch of the widescreen frame with detail and texture.
Audio – 4 out of 5
Breaking bones crack loudly and gun shots rip through the speakers with this excellent audio presentation.
Extras – 4 out of 5
A largely decent set of extras cover all you need to know about the making of the film.
Presentation – 3 out of 5
The original ad campaign is used for both the box art work and menu design.
Overall – 4 out of 5
All in all a very good package for not only one of this year’s best British films but one of the best thrillers of the year.
This article was first posted on December 24, 2011