Director: Matt Palmer
Screenplay: Matt Palmer
Starring: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Tony Curran
Runtime: 101 Minutes
From the opening establishing shot of Calibre showing the cold and misty landscape of the Scottish Highlands, and the forbidding menace of Anne Nikitin's wallowing score, the horror element of the dark British thriller conjures up the memories of last years The Ritual. Possibly drawing one to assume a bloodbath of nightmarish terrors.
While Calibre isn't a horror by definition, it certainly feels like one. In fact, it shares more in common with John Borman's Deliverance as far as its plot is concerned. Where two young city-dwelling scots, Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) venture out into the woods on a hunting trip, encountering aggressive locals, calming isolation, and a harrowing incident of unfortunate circumstance that leaves both their lives and the films expected narrative in shatters to be picked back up over its runtime.
The incident in question is one best left unspoiled, but the nature of which is distressing and panicked while maintaining the realism of its harsh handheld direction.
How the plot plays out is something that plays dangerously close to cliche, but which director and writer Matt Palmer manages to skirt from at every turn. Always surprising and ratcheting up the tension of the situation with every passing scene and delay as our to protagonists (or anti-heroes) try to leave the local village they are dwelling in.
Underlying this is the gruff cultural divide born between the well-off visitors from the city, and to local folk fending off their own sense of obsolescence and financial ruin. Tony Curran's Logan stands as the last member of the community attempting to hold everything together, and will offer up what he can to make a show to the pair in order to secure some investment. All of which comes closer to a head as it rides into its third act at a slow pace punctuated with sudden gut punch reveals and developments.
Lowden and McCann are extraordinary here, delivering on a range of emotions as the story goes on. From Marcus's aggression and drug-fuelled determinism being channelled into covering up their actions, to Vaughn's timid demeanour crumbling further behind closed doors as new shades get the better of him.
Calibre is as tense as a thriller can get while still catering to its own established rules, with a solid screenplay and well-judged direction delivering strong debut work from Matt Palmer.