At first their idyllic rented cottage offers the possibilities of that secure and intimate sanctuary they long for (even if the generator in the basement proves to be a little haphazard), but within a day of two, their peace is shattered in the form of an injured military man (Jamie Bell) named Jack. He appears to have rowed over from the mainland all by himself and alarms them with news that something terrible has happened back in civilisation, and they must do everything they can to bombard themselves from it.
With zero opportunity to make outside contact with anyone (their mobile phones has no signal and the CB radio communication is unable to pick up any sources) do they swallow Jack’s convincingly-told, if implausible tale, or worst still, do they have any choice if they don’t?
Retreat is a sometimes gripping, sometimes logic-skirting, tense three-hander. Possessing a “Dead Calm on an island” vibe, it doesn’t quite have the same sexual tension which permeates throughout Philip Noyce’s 1989 suspense feature, but it does feature solid performances by its three leads (Newton hasn’t been this good in a long time), who strive to inject a believability and nervy atmosphere into their predicament. It doesn’t help that they’re constantly at odds with an overwrought and imposing score which threatens to tip things into melodramatic territory, but the actors do their best to keep things together until the decidedly bleak ending.
Murphy is his usually reliable self (nice to see him juggling his work in big Hollywood fare with smaller stuff like this) but it’s the almost unrecognisable Bell who steals for film here as the domineering and steadfast squaddie, who may (or may not) be everything he professes to be. The script does at times threaten to undo some of his good work by throwing in a number of character inconsistencies, but Bell’s strength as a performer (this is a world away from his forthcoming role as the globe-trotting, do-gooder Tintin) help smooth over those issues.
Debut feature director Carl Tibbetts also works well with what is clearly a low budget. The crisp digital imagery looks fantastic, particularly during the opening shots of the island as the couple make their way over, and as the film progresses, the once picturesque interior of the island hideaway begins to resemble that of a house lifted straight out of a horror film, as the director effectively captures his character’s increasingly fragile mental states through their dark, boarded-up surroundings.
Out in cinemas in a ridiculously short time window before it receives a home video release, Retreat should find a good home on the small screen, but it’s just as well suited for those looking for an absorbing evening at the local multiplex too.