Shailene Woodley in ‘Divergent’ Move Over Katniss Everdeen

Shailene Woodley in ‘Divergent’ Move Over Katniss Everdeen

Having seen Shailene Woodley in Divergent one thing was clear, by the time the end credits rolled, Katniss Everdeen can move right over and make room for Tris. As protagonists go this young lady, who is pretty much a square peg that cannot fit into a round hole, is just what the doctor ordered. While the movie is, admittedly, aimed at the fans of Veronica Roth, aka teens, the older and younger demographic should respond well to the story being told here.

Retreat (2011): Apocalypse on a Scottish Island

First-time director Carl Tibbetts (who co-wrote the screenplay with fellow first-timer Janice Hallett) has delivered a brilliantly claustrophobic apocalyptic film with Retreat. With a cosy cast of three, Jamie Bell, Thandie Newton and Cillian Murphy,  Retreat is an atmospheric, tense, scary film that is so full of suspense that you feel the urge to watch it with your teeth clenched.

Rather surprisingly Retreat only got a three star rating on Netflix and IMDb only gave the film a 5.7 out of 10. All three actors turn in a more than adequate performance and Jamie Bell should have been nominated for a best acting award. The more things I see Bell in the more I can appreciate that when it comes to acting, he is a master craftsman who needs to be in more films.

The film starts with Martin and Kate Kennedy (Murphy and Newton) riding out to a remote Scottish island on a boat piloted by Doug (Jimmy Yuill). Doug is taking the young couple to a cottage that he has let out to them on the island. Martin and Kate appear strained and unhappy on the boat ride out and we learn that things aren’t too good between them. They are returning to the quaintly named Fairweather Cottage because they had been there years before during a happier time in their life.

Doug drops the couple off on the island and reminds them that he is on the other end of the CB radio if they need anything. The island is remote and they are the only inhabitants. While they settle into the cottage, Kate starts writing about her troubled marriage and that she and Martin are reeling from her recent miscarriage. The generator dies and Doug has to come out to fix it. The day after he fixes it, the generator breaks again and while Martin is trying to restart it, the generator blows up injuring Martin. Kate radios Doug who says that it will be tomorrow before he can come out.

The next day comes and goes without Doug arriving to fix the generator and they can’t raise him on the radio. Kate looks out an upstairs window and sees a man stumble and fall on the path leading to the cottage. She and Martin go out and bring the unconscious man into the cottage. He is bleeding from a head wound and Kate discovers that their mysterious guest is armed.

While the man is passed out on the couch, Martin takes his gun and hides it in a drawer in the dining room dresser. The man, who is dressed in Army fatigues, wakes up and the three introduce each other. The man’s name is Jack (Bell) and he asks if they are on the island alone and if they have contact with the mainland. Martin explains that they are the only people on the island and that the CB radio is their only means of communication.

Jack then tells them that he is a soldier and that the world is suffering from a major ‘pandemic’ caused by a virus from South America called Argromoto Flu, codenamed R1N16. It is an airborne virus that is highly contagious and deadly. If you contact it, you will start coughing blood, pass the virus on to someone else and then you will die horribly. He tells them that the Army is telling people to barricade themselves indoors until they can come up with a cure.

Jamie Bell as Jack is sinister, aggressive, controlling and scary. Kate doesn’t believe Jack’s story and neither do we. Martin tries to play along until they can find out the truth.

I have heard this film called” Dead Calm on land” and I’ve heard it described as “28 Days Later meets Straw Dogs.” Both comparisons are spot on. This is a thriller of highest calibre and it keeps you constantly on edge and trying to guess which way the film is going. The plot twists are many and you will not guess the ending until it smacks you in the face.

This was Carl Tibbetts first time at bat and he knocked the film firmly and squarely out of the park for a solid home run.  This little film completely sells its plot, characters and mood. It is an unbelievably intense thriller. If I had to give this British cinema offering a score, I’d give it a eleven out of ten and say that this needs be on that list of films to see before you die just for Jamie Bell’s performance alone.  The film is that good and Bell’s performance is that great.

Doomsday (2008): Don’t Fear the Reaper

As the poster so clearly states: A New Film From Neil MarshallDoomsday is the third film to be written and directed by Neil Marshall. The first two, Dog Soldiers (2002) and The Descent (2005),  I have written about before. These three films, if watched in the order they were made, show Marshall’s growth and  increased status as a writer/director. Each progressive film benefits from an increased budget and the calibre of actors goes up as well.  More importantly, each film’s scope is enlarged; the first two films were a cozy affair. Single locale, set number of actors and scenes, FX capable but not too flashy. Doomsday in terms of all the above mentioned items, scoops them both.

Filmed for an estimated budget of $30,000,000 Doomsday looks impressive. The cast comprises the usual Marshall regulars, Sean PertweeEmma CleasbyNora-Jane NooneMyAnna Buring, and Craig Conway (Conway gives a stand out performance as the mad-as-hatter ruler of a blood thirsty mob of survivors – Sol). The cast also includes some big namesBob HoskinsMalcolm McDowell (as Sol’s pop, you can see where Sol gets his personality from), Rhona Mitra, like I said big names.

In the not too distant future a killer virus known as The Reaper sweeps through Britain. The government decide to contain the infected behind a huge fortified fence that stretches from coast to coast, cutting off Scotland completely and leaving everyone trapped behind the fence to die. The United Kingdom is condemned by the rest of the world for their actions.

Jump ahead thirty years and two things happen almost simultaneously. Satellites that have been orbiting the  contaminated area north of the fence spies movement and The Reaper has made an unwelcome return. A small group of elite specialist are drafted into entering the contaminated zone. Their mission is to find  a research laboratory that was working on a cure for the virus before they were trapped in the containment area and to find out who has survived and how.

Rhona Mitra is one-eyed Eden Sinclair (this role so obviously got her cast in Underworld 3) who leads the team of experts into the area. Eden, whose “glass-eye” doubles as a camera with video recording capability, is hard as nails and  very independent. Once she and her team breach the wall and head into the laboratory, they get jumped by Sol’s people. They are captured and as part of Sol’s twenty-four hour madness, Sean Pertwee is again killed at the beginning of the second reel.

The film has a very ‘Mad Max‘ feel to it. From the outfits that Sol’s people wear, to the vehicles they use at the end of the film in a protracted Mad Max chase scene, the film feels like an English version of the Mel Gibson cult favourites. Marshall himself stated the the Mad Max trilogy inspired him and that he was paying his own homage to the films.

It was very nice to see Malcolm McDowell as Sol’s father, the lab scientist who has decided to remake the survivors behind the wall into his vision of Darwin’s theory. His madness dictates that he can willing sacrifice his own children if they do not obey him and his rules. Once Eden returns from the infected territory with a “cure” for the reaper virus, she  sets up the very people who sent her and her team to almost certain death. She puts in motion  the mechanics for their downfall.

Doomsday is a cracking film. It has a snappy pace and the actors all do well. The bigger budget shows in the end result and I am guessing the Marshall will have an even bigger budget for his next film.

Marshall’s next film is The Last Voyage of Demeter,  Dracula fans will recognise the name of the ship, it is the one that transports the Count to England in the book. It looks as though  Marshall is going back to his horror roots. The film is due to be released in 2013. I am looking forward to it.