Oct 9, 2012

A Lonely Place to Die


I can recall, vividly, a learning experience taught by Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger,  an important lesson on the dangers of empty space and what it doesn't mean to chase thrills. Thrill-seekers could view the mountain climbing featured in Cliffhanger as a gateway to adrenaline and a telescope to rarely seen sights and sound. I, however, see it as the senseless threat it is and would rather shed my mortality in a more humble and all-together boring matter - not cartwheeling through the air, drowning on my own screams. Which is precisely what had happened in the opening of Cliffhanger, that ever-important message of trust branded on each frame, which is also a recurrent theme in A Lonely Place to Die. And unlike Cliffhanger, A Lonely Place to Die is actually a terrific thriller without an air of predictability, one of its many sweet spots. Starring Melissa George and directed by Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Footsoldier), A Lonely Place to Die tells the story of a group of mountaineers in the Scottish Highlands who have planned a vacation around various sites when they discover a kidnapped girl and find out they are being hunted by the abductors. From this set-up, A Lonely Place to Die rappels into rather grim territory with scenes of sudden violence and a composure of extreme panic that never ceases to surprise you.

Admittedly, I am acrophobic but this rarely has applied to cinema for me. I can count the number of films that supplied heavy helpings of unease due to high altitude on one hand, the two most recent theatrical films being Cloverfield and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. That isn't to say I don't mumble aloud to various screen characters for dangling in a stationary position (See also, The Grey), but these two films in particular, in-theater, had me clutching at my armrest and counting the seconds until I could see the sweet gift of feet planted firmly on soil. A Lonely Place to Die is the exception to the category, although the reasoning not being the height, but the risk. Those previously mentioned films do not relate to my reality therefore the rush of worry, while being eminent, dissipates almost instantaneously. A Lonely Place to Die's scenery chews at the rope all film long, leaving me in disgust at the thought of the next cliff face our unfortunate crew might have to scale. Melissa George, the beloved lead in Triangle (2009), takes on quite a task bringing physicality into the mix and Sean Harris performs as expected of him: sneering, villainous, and with incredible presence. Perhaps one of the more paramount aspects of A Lonely Place to Die is that Julian Gilbey isn't afraid to cycle settings and terrain against what one would expect, that, and his detachment from his characters. Enough so to provide a darker element of murder than one would presume to witness.

You can also tell from A Lonely Place to Die that director Julian Gilbey had fun assembling the pieces of this superior thriller, enough so to twist the formula into unfamiliar variations, such as presenting a pair of could-be villains who are victim only to your perspective, just to have the camera pan out and introduce a more plausible threat. This world presented is a very real world, full of agony and misfortune, meaning to say, humanity suffers in A Lonely Place to Die. Whether it's a bystander or a friend, colleague, and even lovers; no one is safe and no one gets a pass. It is why this savage behavior meshes so well with nature, but seems even more at home in suburbia. Matter of fact, A Lonely Place to Die occasionally brings allusions to the highly-effective British thriller, Eden Lake, though with horror and nihilism replaced by a John Rambo-less First Blood aesthetic of survival. A character throughout A Lonely Place to Die curses himself discovering the abducted girl and wishes nothing more than to be rid of this burden of barbarity. This character has since the opening been unhappy of most everything handed to him. Now, because of him, his friends lives are challenged at every turn. It's funny to me - tinkering with the thought of chance and coincidence, especially with the recollection of a young, beautiful, innocent socialite on the floor of a bar with an uncontested fatal gut wound. A Lonely Place to Die is just that; a place of ever-heightening suspense and an always growing body count that makes this trip worth the bloody price of admission.


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