FANTASTIC FEST 2011: A LONELY PLACE TO DIE Review
Melissa George has enjoyed an impressive and unpredictable career since making a huge impressions on TV audiences in both the UK and her homeland of Australia as sexy flower child Angel in HOME & AWAY. Filmgoers will recognise her as the lead in Christopher Smith's TRIANGLE and here she takes top billing as Alison, an experienced (and inexplicably American) mountaineer whose sojourn in the Scottish Highlands is violently disrupted when she stubbles upon a kidnapping plot.
Alison and her group of like-minded adventurers set off to scale a particularly challenging and remote mountain pass, after only narrowly surviving the obligatory opening climbing accident - which not only gives the audience an early glimpse of Gibley's intentions and abilities to meld nail-biting thrills with jaw-dropping locations, but also introduces the tensions that exist between Alison and her fellow climbers. No sooner have they found themselves cut off from civilization and without a phone signal they discover Anna (Holly Boyd), a young East European schoolgirl buried in a small cell way up in the mountains.
Unable to explain what happened to her, the climbers have no alternative but to split up and get Anna back to safety, only to find the merciless and incredibly deadly Mr. Kidd (Sean Harris) on their tail. Suffice to say that before the day is out, lives are lost, other parties are drawn into the plot and Alison takes on almost Ripley-esque qualities as both surrogate mother and reluctant action heroine.
For a good hour, Gibley effectively ratchets up the tension and delivers a number of well-executed set pieces as our naive yet capable innocents find themselves in the crosshairs of hardened mercenaries, while Mother Nature frequently intervenes to send characters plummeting over sheer drops or swept away in icy cold mountain waters. A LONELY PLACE TO DIE draws favourable comparisons to Neil Marshall's THE DESCENT in the way it successfully pits Man (or rather, Woman) against Nature, only to come a cropper in the third act when Alison and Anna reach civilisation, leaving the mountains and decent storytelling behind.
Sadly, the film's final 30 minutes attempts too many different things simultaneously, some of which work - Eamonn Walker's private security operative is a great addition who should have been introduced much earlier - and some of which don't: the remote Scottish village that hosts the violent finale is in the throngs of a bizarre, nonspecific pagan street carnival that is as distracting as it is completely superfluous to the plot. One can't help but wish the action had stayed in the Highlands throughout, and while the narrative does reach a mostly satisfactory conclusion, how it gets there tries the patience on many occasions.
At best, A LONELY PLACE TO DIE attempts to be a feature-length version of the St. Cyril's mountain sequence in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (there's even a Roger Moore reference early on to tee it up), and never becomes as ham-fisted as Renny Harlin's CLIFFHANGER, even when guns are drawn and the film shifts from being a climbing drama to an action film, but ultimately it's still not an entirely satisfying experience. That said, when it is good it is very good and Gilbey can rest assured that his star is still on the rise and British genre Cinema continues its recent run of good form.
A Lonely Place to Die
- Julian Gilbey
- Julian Gilbey
- Will Gilbey
- Alec Newman
- Ed Speleers
- Melissa George
- Kate Magowan