Review: Retreat (DVD)

2012/02/22 16:24:26 +00:00 | Derek Botelho

In Carl Tibbetts’ debut film as a writer and director, he paints a portrait of a modern couple thrown into the most primitive of situations. While vacationing in a remote island cottage they had come to some eight years prior, Martin (Cillian Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton) are confronted with the true horrors of humanity when Jack (Jamie Bell) arrives to disturb their peaceful getaway.

The film starts out quietly, as Martin and Kate are delivered to their destination by Doug (Jimmy Yuill), the owner of the cottage, and they go about “enjoying” themselves. There is so much tension in these early scenes between the couple that I wondered why they would isolate themselves further from the world in an attempt to heal their collective wounds.

A wounded soldier (Jamie Bell) is found on the beach one morning by Martin and brought back to the cabin against Kate’s wishes. The stranger soon informs them that a highly contagious virus has been detected and will soon be headed their way. Before any questions can be asked, the couple is held hostage and forced to barricade themselves inside the house to keep the virus at bay. Martin naturally is skeptical, but what if this guy is right? But what if he’s wrong?

Here is where the film’s plot dies and the complicated gender and social politics within the psyches of these three are brought into play. As the story unfolds, Kate and Jack work at convincing Martin to join their respective cause. At the same time, Kate is put into the impossible situation of playing moderator with these two men who have an unholy brotherhood for survival that twists and turns depending on who is shouting what at the other.

This paranoid thriller fortunately showcases three very good performances from the main cast. The only problem is that they don’t have much to do outside of look stressed out and on the verge of a nervous breakdown the entire time. For all the psychological underpinnings here they are surprisingly all one note. The story arc doesn’t really go anywhere because it’s stuck on an island with a couple held hostage for an hour. So all it has to lean on is the mental state of these three people. The biggest mistake is that there isn’t any buildup to the action once the stranger arrives. He’s there and then things go south very fast.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing Retreat and provides a very clean image on this DVD. The muted color scheme is served well, and I didn’t come across any instances of compression noise or other artifacts. The audio track is sufficient; it’s not like listening to The Lord of the Rings or anything, but it will do. The dialogue is always clear, even with the British accents, for those who have a hard time with things like that. A still gallery, a collection of trailers, and an sixteen-minute “making of” are all we have in terms of bonus features. It would have been nice to have a commentary by the director/writers at least.

Director Carl Tibbetts has a way of keeping the action claustrophobic and we rarely see the island outside once we are in this cottage. The isolation is complete and damning, and we really do feel for the couple. This kind of film is a difficult trick to pull off because you’re basically making a stage play on film, and it could easily get boring. I’m glad to report that while it’s not the most slam bang thing around, it’s always intriguing. I would recommend it as a rental.

Film Score: 2.5/5  Disc Score: 2/5

If you're interested in learning more about Retreat, you we have a trailer and 4 clips from the film: