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A Lonely Place To Die (2011,UK)

14/01/2012

Director: Julian Gilbey           Starring: Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Eamonn Walker, Sean Harris, Alec Newman

The thing about living in the Scottish Highlands is that, well, it’s a pretty quiet part of the world. Sparsely populated in terms of people per square mile what clusters of population there are are seperated by large tracts of quite spectacular scenery, making it, one would suppose, an ideal location in which to set a mountaineering based thriller. And this is precisely what Julian Gilbey has chosen to do with A Lonely Place To Die.

A group of mountaineers led by the experienced climbers Alison (George) and Rob (Newman) stumble upon a concealed cell in which a young girl has clearly been held prisoner. Their immediate decision is to free the girl and take her to safety, a plan that comes a little unstuck when the girl’s captors, led by the despicable Mr Kidd (Harris), take exception to their prisoner being freed and stop at nothing to get her back.

As a film, it is a fairly by-the-numbers thriller in the vein of Deadly Pursuit or maybe Cliffhanger with the slight addition of a kidnapping sub plot thrown into the mix. It’s fair to say that it sticks fairly rigidly to the expected formula for this kind of film, the rescuers being gradually eliminated one by one, the story working its way to the inevitable final stand off conclusion. The result? No real surprises. Now, there’s no great shame in that, there are plenty of decent formulaic thrillers out there that provide a solid hour and a half of entertainment, but this one falls a little bit short of the mark for me.

Plus sides: Pacing. Once it gets out of the gate it doesn’t really let up. From the moment they find the girl to the film’s conclusion the good guys are on the move and being pursued with little in the way of dawdling to slow up the proceedings. This is a good thing. Similarly, the running time has been kept tight which also helps to prevent the film from dragging. Some of the stunt work is very impressive, funnily enough not so much in the climbing scenes (although these look pretty authentic to me) but there are some really quite nasty moments (one particularly savage roll down a rocky, wooded slope made me properly wince) which look like they would have been a real challenge to put together in the wild. The performances are solid if a little unremarkable, nobody embarrasses themselves but at the same time are in no danger of winning any awards. Melissa George’s accent was a little bit unsettling from time to time but such things can be forgiven to a certain extent.

Down sides. The writing is pretty poor. The dialogue is mediocre and the plot a little bit leaky with some vital elements left without explanation or even apparent reason. It’s badly researched. The thing that really annoyed me was when a village policeman attempts to contact the police in Inverness – where I live – he can’t get a hold of anyone and has to leave a message which wouldn’t even make sense if Inverness was a provincial village with one bobby as the film seems to suggest (haven’t they heard of mobile phones?) but makes even less sense when you consider the Northern Constabulary headquarters are based here. Obviously if you don’t know anything about the area this is unlikely to bother you but it really irritated me, especially as it had little bearing on the film’s last act. There are also a couple of clumsy moments plot wise where you get the feeling the writers were trying to be really clever but in reality they don’t really pull it off, not to mention some of the most unrealistic walking away from horrendous incidents with minimal (or no) injuries which are so flagrantly improbable they would make Kevin McCallister blush!

Despite its flaws, the film has been warmly received by the locals round here, largely because it was filmed in the local area and there’s nothing like watching a film and recognising the places (and in some cases people) you are seeing up on screen. It’s not as if the Highlands are a stranger to film crews these days (recent filming work included segments for the new Batman movie which were shot in the local area) but there is still a lot of novelty value in being able to watch the local area captured in so called “proper” mainstream cinema. Certainly it will guarantee you the enthusiastic support of the locals who have flocked in droves to buy this on DVD. I just wish that it had been a slightly better film. It’s not that it’s bad as such, it’s just tragically average despite some neat touches and the occasional genuinely thrilling moment, leaving you with a “could have done better” feeling as the end credits roll although if you’re a local yokel like me it’s worth a watch if only to see a protracted gun battle unfold in Dingwall high street. Plus it’s nice to see a film set in Scotland actually filmed in Scotland for a change.

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