Retreat (2011)

In celebration of St. Patricks day, we'll take a look at one of the latest films from the tremendously underrated Irish actor Cillian Murphy.

Murphy is Martin, an architect whose wife, Kate (Thandie Newton), has recently suffered a miscarriage. The fall out from such a devastating event has led them down two divergent paths emotionally. Martin books a cottage on an isolated island hoping the time together away from the memories and routines of their everyday life will begin to repair the damage their marriage has suffered. Then Jack shows up.

Rescued by Martin after being washed up on the beach with a nasty head wound, Jack (Jaime Bell) beings to tell a tale of a devastatingly deadly disease ravaging the mainland. With no contact from the outside world Martin and Kate are forced to comply with Jacks demands. They board up the house, blocking the entrances and exits. They put plastic over the windows hoping to keep the disease out. Left alone and isolated with a shitty generator, Martin and Kate begin to question Jacks story. That's when things get really crazy.

First time writer/director Carl Tibbets crafts a wonderful character study in the guise of a thriller/horror film. Yes, it's slow at times, but those times have purpose. There are seeds of doubt placed through the film. Doubt not just about Jacks motives, but about Martins and Kates as well. The dynamic that develops between the three main principals drives the last half of the film. This is one of those films that shows why the human condition can be more frightening than any serial killer or monster. It's one of the reason I loved the first "Saw" film so much. When you boil it down that film is two guys in a room trying to survive. This film is very similar in that three people are isolated on an island and who they can trust is always in question. Tibbets script effectively build tension between all three sets of characters equally. Even after the film is over and the credits are running, there is an ambiguity as to what you've just seen.

It's not a perfect film. There are a couple gaping plot holes that a more experienced writer and film maker would have closed. Some stretches of logic also muddy the waters a bit. The pace of the film will not be for everyone. If you are not a fan of verbal exposition, then this might not be the film for you.

The pock marks are easy to ignore if you just lose yourself in three tremendous performances. Murphy has been one of my favorites ever since his star turning role in "28 Days" later. He is the anchor of this film. Buzzing around him, Newton and Bell (who would have though the guy who played Billy Elliott could be such a crazy mother fucker), craft subtle moments that build tension between them that the script may have been lacking.

This is a tremendous film. Dumped direct to DVD here in the States, it's a film any genre fan really needs to check out. It's the type of film that gives hope to an industry where Michael Bay seems to somehow still have a job. Check it out.

**** stars out of 5

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