out of Five
Running time: 86
Smartly directed, intriguingly twisty and frequently tense thriller that's given an extra edge thanks to an engagingly complex turn from Jamie Bell.
What's it all about?
Directed by Carl Tibbetts, Retreat stars Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton as Martin and Kate, a married couple who take a vacation in a remote island retreat in the hopes of working through some relationship problems. However, their solitude is abruptly shattered by the arrival of Jack, a blood-soaked stranger who claims to be a soldier and tells them that an air-bone disease has devastated the mainland.
With their power down and no way of contacting the mainland, Martin and Kate are forced to take Jack at his word as he barricades the three of them indoors and insists that they don't go outside. But is Jack telling the truth or is he a delusional psychopath?
Jamie Bell is superb as Jack, delivering a complex, layered performance that leaves you constantly guessing as to his true motivation; there are a number of ways the part could have been played and Bell pitches it exactly right, making Jack surprisingly sympathetic considering his actions. Murphy is equally good as a non-violent man trying to decide if this stranger is telling the truth or if he constitutes a threat to his family, while Newton is effectively cast as Kate, a woman who has secrets of her own.
Tibbetts maintains careful control of his material throughout, letting out tantalising hints as to what might really be going on but never overplaying his hand. Similarly, he creates an extremely tense atmosphere, heightened by a superb score from Ilan Eshkeri and suitably claustrophobic cinematography from Chris Seager.
The main problem with the film is that it expects you to leap over too many gaping plot-holes, such as exactly why Jack isn't more forthcoming with the truth or the fact that the island can't even receive radio-waves or a TV signal, let alone get mobile phone reception. It's also the sort of film that falls apart the moment you attempt to dissect it afterwards, though in a way that lends itself nicely to post-film pub discussion.
Retreat isn't exactly without flaws but it's never less than watchable, thanks to an intriguingly complex and engaging performance from Jamie Bell that's probably better than the film deserves.