Deliberately departing from the staples of British crime films and thrillers, A Lonely Place To Die marks out its own path and sticks with it through to the end. Eschewing cockney geezers, trench-coat wearing gangsters and hooded yoofs, it instead gives us the rolling hills and jagged cliffs of Scotland, before eventually descending on a small village for a satisfying and gripping finale.
A Lonely Place To Die came much-lauded on its theatrical release and rightly so. Although it would have been easy for the director to have made excuses on the basis of budgetary constraints, the film is strongly written, performed and directed, with imaginative set-pieces, creative cinematography and compelling and propulsive action. If anything, the special features pull back the curtain a little too much, showing so many of the tricks employed to complete the film, that some of the enjoyment of the film itself is blunted. This is very much a minor quibble though and ultimately detracts very little from what is a satisfying and effective thriller.
As the de facto hero, Melissa George is excellent, as she and the rest of the group quickly realise just how much trouble they have got themselves into and how ruthless are the pair that pursue them. She goes from a singularly focussed climber to a singularly focussed protector of the little girl Anna and this trajectory is believeably conveyed. There is very little back-story for her or any of the other principals, yet she and the rest of the impressive cast feel fleshed out and multi-dimensional.
What plot exposition there is, is conveyed through naturalistic dialogue and there is a healthy and commendable commitment by cast and crew to keeping the characters’ physical exploits grounded in reality. As co-writer and 2nd Unit Director Will Gilbey (and brother of co-writer, editor, producer and director Julian Gilbey) says during the making-of documentary, “we’re not going to have someone dropping 30 feet and then grabbing a cliff edge with their fingertips. It just wouldn’t work”. Writers and director clearly did their homework, both in scouting locations and working with experienced climbers, to ensure they maintained verisimilitude throughout.
When the rolling hills are left behind and the surviving members of the group enter the village where the conclusion plays out, the film becomes a little more conventional, but maintains the ruthless viciousness of the earlier scenes. The pair of kidnappers in pursuit of Anna show themselves to be utterly indifferent to the value or sanctity of human life and the unsentimental manner in which assorted characters are dispatched is a welcome change from the overly stylised approach that could so easily have bedevilled a lesser film.
Plenty of films from the UK and Hollywood have managed much less in terms of visceral impact and compelling storytelling from much more lavish resources and the effectiveness and vigour of A Lonely Place To Die is therefore to be applauded. One to enjoy.
Making Of – At 70+ minutes long this is pretty detailed but thoroughly enjoyable with it. The whole of pre-production, casting, filming and post-production is covered in excellent and engaging detail, with loads of fascinating insight into stunts, CG-augmentation and set-building
The Challenge of the Alps – Director Julian Gilbey climbs three peaks in the Alps for charity, filming his efforts as he goes. Incidental to the film, but vertiginous and thrilling anyway.
Commentary – Brothers Julian and Will Gilbey (writers, editor, producers, director etc between them) share candid, self-effacing insight into the making of the film.