Sacrifice (2016): Slow Moving Thriller (Review)

Rafa Mitchell in Sacrifice

Based on SJ Bolton’s debut novel  of the same name Sacrifice was directed by Peter A. Dowling (who also wrote the screenplay) and stars Radha Mitchell and Rupert Graves. It is a slow moving thriller set on a small island community in Shetland, Scotland.  

Filmed, in part, in Ireland and Shetland the movie is part The Wicker Man, part The Stepford Wives and part gothic fiction.  Mitchell plays Dr. Tora Hamilton an American woman whose body has rejected three pregnancies.

After the last spontaneous miscarriage she and her husband Duncan return to his familial home on the small Shetland island of Unst.  The couple are made welcome and she starts working at a local hospital.

Burying a dead horse on their property, Tara discovers what is initially thought to be a “peat body.” The preserved corpse of a woman with runes on her body and the heart cut from her chest. The corpse shows that the woman gave birth before dying. Tara is more than a little intrigued.

She believes that the victim is not from hundreds of years ago but is a woman murdered quite recently.

The only other person on the island who believes Tara is justified in her belief is policewoman Sergeant Dana Tulloch (Joanne Crawford).  The doctor has an uphill battle as she struggles to find out who the victim really is and who killed her. 

Sacrifice is very slow paced. It has only one brief car chase and there is not a huge onscreen body count. This is a mystery thriller which relies on old fashioned detective work from the American doctor who Nancy Drew’s her way through the film.

At its core this is an armchair mystery, reminiscent of Agatha Christie but with a protagonist that is more learned than Miss Marple yet not as astute as Hercule Poirot. The amateur detective does follow her hunches however and finally sorts out the truth.

Sacrifice could also be seen as a cautionary tale. Do not marry foreigners who come from small islands in Scotland could be the underlying theme. It is interesting to note that all the characters have very soft Scottish accents and are quite easy to understand.

As thrillers go the film is interesting and has some tense moments. The storyline was interesting enough that one wanted to learn the truth along with Tara.  If there is any fault to be found, outside the almost excruciatingly slow pace, would be the lighting at the film’s climax. It really was too dark.

Mitchell, as usual, was on point as the American doctor trying to get past three miscarriages and solve a mystery.  Graves was also spot on as the loving husband with a secret.

The entire cast was full of performers with splendid bona fides. David Robb and  Ian McElhinney were but two of the actors with a long list of credits to their names. 

The movie  may have come unstuck with its choice of location, using a real place versus a fictional version of same, but it all looks good to those not familiar with the area.

Sacrifice is a solid 3.5 stars.  It offered enough mystery to keep things going but lacked any real fire. For those who like a little adrenaline in their thrillers, will be disappointed.  Check out the trailer and see what you think.

The film is currently streaming on Netflix.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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