A Lonely Place To Die

A Lonely Place To Die

***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

The whole programme for A Lonely Place To Die is laid out in the opening scene, where Alison (Melissa George, Triangle), Rob (Alec Neman) and their less experienced climbing partner Ed (Ed Speelers) are shown scaling a bare rock face in the Scottish Highlands. First they stop to photograph the view, next they watch a golden eagle circling overhead in search of prey, and then, as Ed's foot becomes entangled in the ropes, they come very close to a fatal accident. Breathtaking spectacle, predatory nature, and the proximity of death – these are all key ingredients in this survival thriller, where cliffhangers, both literal and metaphorical, will proliferate.

The three set out the next day together with married couple Jenny (Kate McGowan) and Alex (Garry Sweeney) for some more climbing, but on their way stumble upon a terrified young foreign girl, Anna (Holly Boyd), who has been left buried alive in the woods. Over the next few hours, Alison and her companions will be tested to their very limits as they try to keep the girl safe from a pair of ruthless kidnappers (Stephen McCole and a chilling Sean Harris) circling for the kill. Meanwhile mercenaries (Eamonn Walker, Paul Anderson) hired by the girl's father – a Serbian war criminal - close in, unsure whether they can trust even their own employer.


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In a scene near the beginning of A Lonely Place To Die, Alison discusses the dangers of climbing the Eiger. If you fall from the summit, it'll take you 30 seconds to hit the ground," she says – just enough, as Rob chimes in, "to say the Lord's prayer." In fact, several of the film's characters will subsequently be confronted with having to decide how to fill in the moments before their death, as director/co-writer Julian Gilbey asks if there can remain any room for decency, compassion and nobility in a place suddenly dominated by money and murder. The film may start in a physical and moral wilderness, but even the relative civilisation of a nearby town offers no safe haven from evil men, leaving Alison and the others to call upon their own instincts and resources to do the right thing for little Anna. While we all, ultimately, die alone, here loneliness turns out to be less a property of location than a condition of those cut off from forming attachments or empathising with others.

If A Lonely Place To Die evokes Deliverance and Southern Comfort, its Scottish setting and its broad respect for the locals are something new for the survival subgenre. DP Ali Asad captures the Highland peaks and troughs in stunning Scope, while Gilbey, splitting the writing and editing duties between himself and his brother William, provides tensely atmospheric direction and some very deftly handled narrative surprises – including one or two guaranteed to elicit collective gasps from the audience. This is high-end cinema, let down only by the lack of any obvious subtext to earth all its on-the-edge thrills.

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In a way, A Lonely Place To Die ends as it begins, with the fate of several characters hanging in the balance. This lack of resolution keeps the ending from becoming too pat, while suggesting a world with its own moral checks and balances. We may not quite see it, but we are certainly left to imagine that cruelty is repaid in kind while goodness is its own reward. As for the mercenary, who knows what lies down the road?

Reviewed on: 18 Sep 2011
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Mountain climbers become caught up in a game of cat and mouse after discovering a kidnapped girl buried in the wilderness.
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Read more A Lonely Place To Die reviews:

David Graham ****

Director: Julian Gilbey

Writer: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey

Starring: Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Eamonn Walker, Sean Harris, Alec Newman, Karel Roden, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney, Stephen McCole, Paul Anderson, Holly Boyd, Eric Barlow, Tania Chant, Gillian MacGregor, Douglas Russell

Year: 2011

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

Frightfest 2011

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