Kate and Martin escape from personal tragedy to an Island Retreat. Cut off from the outside world, their attempts to recover are shattered when a Man is washed ashore, with news of airborne killer disease that is sweeping through Europe in this dark thriller from 2011…….
The question is when I am writing this review is how to end it?
You see the whole concept of this neat British horror is the build up of the concept in which we the viewer have to guess if Jack (Jamie Bell), is a demented psycho or in fact he is the only sane person in the film. Now if I say ay the end of this review that “the twist will blow you away!”, the more sensible reader will guess that he is actually saying the truth and well, I have spoiled the film. But if I finish by saying the film ends in a kind of 90’s Unlawful Entry thriller then you will take that as he is nothing but a lying bastard who probably ends up the same way as Jerry Blake and the crazy bitch Alex whose Fatal Attraction started this horror trend.
Its best if I avoid the climax and just tell you the build up, but please if anyone has seen this film and are all set to tell you what happens….then just yell No!. Retreat is more fun not knowing because if you do go in with the knowledge first hand, then you can probably knock a star off the rating below.
Watching the first half hour of this film is uncomfortable. Not because its disturbing or in fact its full of gore porn but the fact you swear you are watching the Straw Dog remake. After twenty minutes I had to check that I was in fact not given the wrong film because the set up is so much like the old Sam Peckinpah classic that I half expected Kate (Thandie Newton) to be raped on the sofa while her hubby Martin (Cillian Murphy) is out and about, annoying all the local men.
Here we see a husband and wife go on holiday in what means a last attempt to get some juice back into their faltering relationship, and they pick an old fashioned house in the middle of nowhere which just cries out for trouble. With the electricity failing at every single opportunity and with only a radio transmitter on hand to get in contact with the mainland, you are just waiting for the “evil!” to come around the corner and it does in the shape of Billy Elliot, sorry Jamie Bell, a solider found washed up on shore with a loaded gun in his pocket and a bloodied head.
When he finally comes around on the sofa and with the married couple looking down on him, instead of getting a “thank you!” for taking him in, what they get instead is a nightmare story that they just can not believe. While Martin and Kate have been on their holiday to recover from the traumatic loss of a baby, the world has been gripped in a pandemic that has been wiping out humanity. In order to survive this serious threat to mankind, Jack insists the three of them must board up the cottage like its a Zombie invasion, kill anyone who comes near the place and live in hope that they can survive doomsday!
Is he lying? Is he saying the truth?. You can see what I mean by making sure you avoid any spoilers so while I quickly move away from this topic in case I slip up lets talk about the film before we arrive at the last twenty minute mark, when everything is revealed!
To enjoy Retreat in which i did, the more sensible viewer may need to switch off a few brain cells to enjoy the full experience. I mean at times I just screamed at the TV because of the stupid actions you witness before your eyes. For a start, no Mobile phones? No TV? No laptop?, I know they were in a place where “signal!” may be hard to find, but this is 2011 and I found it very hard to believe that a couple would go away and completely cut themselves off to any human contact. Also it got frustrating because the tension of the film is built up on the stupidity of the married couple! There is two scenes that simply serve up what I am trying to say.
On one occasion we get Martin and Kate cranking up the atmosphere while trying to take the gun from the pocket of Jack before he wakes up. All very good and on the money, but then a little while later, Martin just hands him back the gun for no apparent reason which really annoyed me.
I could go on but I really do not want to make you feel as if the film is not worth watching! Retreat is enjoyable from beginning to end, the core of “is it a lie or not?” will keep you guessing and the film works in a way because of the trio in the cast who all give great performances, especially Bell who excels in the role of the Solider with a story to tell.
Yes the plot only moves forward because of illogical actions but it is a perfect Saturday night film that will delight newcomers to this kind of genre, but those who have lived through the likes of Dead Calm may well second guess each move, and even if you do guess if the story is real or not, there is a very nasty jolt at the end that even made my black horror heart melt with appreciation!