Retreat (UK - BD RB)
Marcus is stuck on an island with Jamie Bell and Thandie Newton. Fun times...
Getting away from it all Martin Kennedy (Cillian Murphy) and his wife Kate (Thandie Newton) take a trip to an uninhabited island off of the west coast of Scotland in order to work through their marital problems. Losing contact with the mainland the couple discuss whether to row back in a small boat but their decision is put on hold when a stranger collapses outside covered in blood. Upon waking up the stranger, Private Jack Coleman (Jamie Bell) warns the couple that there is an airborne virus that has wiped out the mainland and all but holds the couple hostage as he boards up their house for their own protection. As the days pass, holes begin to appear in Jack’s story and he psychologically torments the pair but with the threat of the air outside potentially lethal, Martin and Kate struggle to make the break for freedom.
On first glance Retreat is a fantastic idea for a film. The trailer hinted at good things and for a good half an hour this was all going well (even if the interior of the cottage location is spookily similar to the one in Straw Dogs and Thandie Newton shows off another of her usual grumpy performances). The premise here is sound but the problem that starts to become apparent is the layers. We have layer one, stranger warns of dangers outside but potentially could be lying. Layer two is the stranger is a mental case and terrorises the couple for reasons not all that clearly explained (well they are but it doesn’t quite add up) and layer three, on a metaphoric level the stranger is the embodiment of the married couple's problem and hits their issues head on. Locking them away from the world, saying the things they don’t and confronting them on their hang ups with one another. All of these layers work, some better than others but for a pretty short 89 minute movie this all runs out of steam just past the hour mark.
The problem is, for what is a relatively fresh and potentially exciting spin on the plague genre Retreat seems to miss a trick or two. The reveal of what’s actually going on isn’t all that bad (don’t worry I won’t spoil it) but it comes far too late in the game and for me would have made the film more interesting if it had arrived at the end of the first act because maybe, just maybe, it would have helped me warm to Jamie Bell, which I always struggle with. Also despite the twists and turns with the story about the mainland outbreak I never felt any crushing sense of despair from the couple. Even if they don’t believe the stranger in their house their relatively no arguments acceptance of his presence in the house felt a little too calm, even before he had the gun. Also they seem quite happy sleeping despite the crazy man with the wild stories and a gun hammering away in their living room all night.
Retreat ended up being simply an okay thriller. The cast were good without doing anything new, the tension and jumps worked for the most part and anyone willing to go with the story longer than I did might get more of a kick out of it but for me Retreat raised a few good questions about what you’d do in the same situation but never really attempted to give a satisfactory suggestion to answer its own questions, instead opting for gun pointing and a nice clean wrap up at the end.
Retreat is a noticeably grainless digital image and while it's not the the most striking image colour wise, this transfer looks very naturally pretty much all of the time. As always Cillian's blue eyes leap off of the screen in HD, and the blood on Jamie Bell's head when we first meet him looks strikingly red and realistic. Skin tones generally looks perfect despite the odd orange tint around cheekbones in certain low light scenes and edges also get much softer in low light. With all that said, there's very little to frown upon with this very modern, clean looking presentation and the only thing that might have benefited it is possibly being a bit darker at times.
There's a nice full sounding score in the opening credits here with a strong central violin in amongst the atmospheric strings. Ambience such as seagulls flying about sound very realistic in the rear speakers and there's a nicely effective storm with gusty winds as well as a jet flying over in amongst the rain and a very strong helicopter sound in a key scene.
Retreat is generally quite a quiet film (despite the shouting) but odd things like grassy footsteps as Martin and Kate walk towards the cottage or Jamie Bell's annoying bowl scraping when he eats his cereal are surprisingly crisp and strong within the mix. There's a couple of powerful gunshots, a few sound fuelled jumps and as I said a key moment of the film whacks up the volume all by itself for effect but generally Retreat has a consistent uneasy quiet to it and only shows off when it wants to grab its audience.
We start with the trailer (01:45 HD) which oddly has a much richer colour palette than the Blu-ray presentation. The making of featurette (16:20 SD) is clips intercut with talks from the cast and director and even though it's typical stuff the way the interviews are shot make it feel a little more personal. Lastly there's photo gallery (04:54) set to the film's score.
Retreat had promise but failed to really grab me. I still think there's a good idea in here but everything felt a little too obvious to me and the multiple layers (some of which felt forced, like why the baddie was like so mental) piled on top of the simple plot didn't really go anywhere satisfying before the clean and tidy wrap up of events rolled around. The film is presented very well on this Blu-ray disc but the extras are thin, so this one is probably worth a rental.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 17th November 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Making of, Trailer, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Carl Tibbetts
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell, Thandie Newton
Length: 89 minutes
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