Retreat review (Blu-ray)

Murphy, Newton and Bell – that's not the sort of topline cast you would expect from a straight-to-DVD/Blu-ray release. Even more so, you would assume if that film did miss out on a cinema release, the film must been fairly terrible to have been overlooked. However, I am happy to report that is not the case with Carl Tibbett’s directorial debut Retreat.

Retreat is the story of a couple, Martin (Murphy) and Kate (Newton), who try to repair their failing marriage by revisiting a remote cottage they had visited 8 years previously for a romantic break. Although the tension is evident, they seem to be getting along, when they spot an injured man (Bell), unconscious outside. However, when they bring him inside, things take a turn for a worse, when he reveals he is a soldier and an airborne pandemic has broken out on the mainland, so they will need to seal the house to be safe. Martin and Kate don’t know whether to trust him, as he shows aggressive and psychotic tendencies, but have to play along until they can find out the truth.

Murphy and Newton are both as good as expected in this film. It would be odd for either to put in a poor performance, but they have a good chemistry and are highly believable as a couple whose relationship is crumbling, despite their best efforts. However, Jamie Bell is the real star of this film with an excellent turn as a borderline psychopath, being creepy and aggressive, but still incredibly vulnerable. He looks the part as a crazed soldier, even when he changes into civilian clothes and is completely unrecognisable from his previous roles,

These performances are also aided by a stellar plot, which throughout Retreat the audience are never entirely sure what is really happening outside the confines of the house, and the island. As a result, the audience is made to a feel the same sense of isolation and doubt as the characters involved, which makes for a very interesting viewing experience, and we are kept guessing right up until the film’s conclusion. The setting is of course instrumental in this sense of isolation too, with the producers having clearly scoured the UK for a believable, but also incredibly isolated area, and the stunning picturesque surrounding (even more so on ultra crisp Blu-ray) make for an excellent juxtaposition to the tense and potentially violent scenes happening inside.

If there was one criticism I would level at Retreat, is that perhaps in the last 20 minutes the story does descend into mild melodrama, but this is forgivable in the context of the film, and doesn’t particularly detract from the drama or tension of proceedings.

Overall, Retreat is something of an overlooked gem, with great performances from its actors, a strong, but very simple to follow plot, and air of mystery that is not resolved until the ending. The bigger mystery, however, is how this has received so little attention, and gone so far under the radar.

EXTRAS ★★ Theatrical trailer, Making of featurette, and Photo gallery.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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