Snowpiercer, the South Korean directed science fiction thriller based on a French graphic novel and starring Chris Evans, was shot in 2012. It was released in 2013 in South Korea and was then shown in just about every country in the world but the U.S. because of the film’s producer Harvey Weinstein.
Turn, which is the AMC look at the history of the spy trade in the American war of independence, replaces The Walking Dead over the summer. Certainly the whole thing starts quite well, with a man escaping by the skin of his teeth from the King’s mercenary troops by the clever device of borrowing a dead man’s coat. A man that said escapee just killed and who almost gets caught because he doesn’t respond to an owl hoot signal by the head mercenary.
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.
- Jamie Bell – Jamie Bell Injured On Film Set (contactmusic.com)
Written and Directed by Michael J. Bassett Deathwatch was Bassett’s first time at bat as a director. All in all not a bad start as either a writer or director. The film looks good, it sounds good and Bassett benefited from having a very talented cast to work with.
Set in 1917 during World War I, Deathwatch follows a small bunch of survivors from Company Y. The majority of the company have been wiped out by a machine gun nest. Sgt Tate (Hugo Speer) gets caught in German barbed wire and the youngest member of the company, Pvt Charlie Shakespeare (Jamie Bell) is too terrified to help him get free. Morning comes and the men attempt to move forward. They suddenly find themselves in a fog or mist. Thinking that this is a gas attack the men don their gas-masks and attempt to carry on.
After the fog clears the men find they are right on top of a German Trench. There seem to be very few German soldiers so the men decide to capture the trench and hold it for British forces. They shoot a few soldiers, who appear to be shooting at something further down the trench. They kill one, lose another and capture the remaining soldier for interrogation. As they spread out in the trenches they find a large amount of dead German soldiers. A lot of them seem to be caught up in their own barb wire.
Things are decidedly weird in this trench. As they go about destroying portions of the trench in order to make it easier to defend, they start hearing noises. They also start acting strangely and are apparently hallucinating. They decide finally to question the captured soldier. Using French, Shakespeare translates what the German soldier is saying, the trench is evil and they must all leave it or die. Pvt Quinn (Andy Serkis) knocks the German out and wants to kill him. He is denied this and generally wigs out, although Quinn doesn’t seem too tightly wound to begin with.
And just when you thought things could not possibly get worse, they can and do go down hill rapidly.
Bassett choosing World War I as a backdrop was a stroke of genius. The First World War centred on trench warfare. Thousands of lives from both sides were lost as they attempted to storm the enemies trenches. Usually fortified with heavy machine guns and cannon, they were practically impregnable. As most of the action took place on the ground, (air attacks were limited to the use of steel darts dropped on the trenches, dropping crude bombs and dropping mustard gas) casualties on both sides was high. The British in particular suffered huge losses due to the lack of experience of their class driven commanding officers and because the people who were making the decisions were miles from the action.
The general mood of the film is dark. It seems to be constantly raining in the film with the end result of everything happening in mud. The Company survivors have no contact with their command except on a captured radio that ceases to work after they receive only one transmission from command stating that no support is coming for them.Bassett manages to mix the atmosphere of the war with supernatural evil. The evil oozes slowly in the trenches at first but the longer the soldiers stay there, it’s presence and influence begins to pick up speed,
The film was not received very well when it was released in 2002, but that seems to be mainly because a lot of the props and images used did not fit the time period. Apart from the obvious mistakes, it is still an impressive film and I would recommend it to anyone.