Friday, 22 June 2018

Calibre - EIFF review

Calibre is the debut feature film from writer/director Matt Palmer. Matt has experience directing short films but many know him as the programmer and curator of All Night Horror Madness, an annual celebration of horror movies that takes place at The Cameo.
It is clear that his love of horror and film has given him the tools to craft a tense and thrilling tale.
Childhood friends Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) head up to the remote Scottish highlands on a hunting trip before Vaughn settles down with his fiancee and baby that is on the way.
After a night of heavy drinking with the locals, ruffling a few feathers along the way, the pals set out to stalk deer in the woods. Only the peace of the misty morning is shattered by a tragic accident that will set the friends down a road from which there may be no return.
What can let a horror or thriller down is when it strays too far from believability but this is not an issue here. Every single decision or choice that the two lead characters make comes from an honest and believable place from where they are at that time. It dares to ask the question of "what would you do?" in a situation like that. Would you have acted any differently? We like to think we would but...
Palmer understands the notion of "best laid plans" and slowly dials up the tension and naturalistically placing obstacles in the way of the duo's success and escape.
Yet the note perfect script would all be for nothing if not they had not assembled a talented group of actors to deliver the goods and they are uniformly terrific.
Jack Lowden is fast becoming one of Scotland's finest talents (Dunkirk, England Is Mine) and completely convinces as a young man whose life as he knows it is suddenly over with the click of a trigger. Torn between a need to tell the truth and a desire to be there for his growing family, he allows himself to be dragged further and further into an impossible situation by his friend.
Where Vaughn is quiet and reserved, Martin McCann's Marcus is loud, brash and cocky. The Northern Ireland actor has the swagger of a young Michael Fassbender and his behaviour sets him at odds with the rural locals (played by the likes of Tony Curran and Ian Pirie) and stirs tensions that potentially put any chance of reconciliation off the table.
The film certainly plays on the differences between the rural and city folk. Not to the over-the-top stereotypical levels League Of Gentlemen ("are you local? there's nothing for you here") or The Wicker Man (even though a bonfire is mentioned at one point) but instead coming in this modern landscape where the gulf in wealth and opportunity is as great as the physical distance between the Highlands and the City.
Palmer's debut deserves to be mentioned in the same conversations as the likes of similar genre films Eden Lake, Deliverance and Straw Dogs. Effectively ringing every drop of tension and menace out of this unsettling moral dilemma.
This is Scottish, and indeed, world filmmaking of the truly highest calibre.

5 stars

Calibre has its World Premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday 22nd June, 8.30 with extra screenings on Saturday 23rd June, 3.15 and Saturday 20th June, 3.15. 
To book, click here.
Calibre will debut on Netlfix from Friday 29th June.

To listen to interviews with the cast and crew of Calibre, check out the latest Filibuster podcast on The Nerd Party/

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