DVD Review: Retreat

Sometimes interactive movies can be fun, and by interactive I mean the type of films that have you screaming, “Aw, now don’t go that way!” or “He’s right behind that door!” Unfortunately, Retreat is the type of interactive experience that spawns from frustration instead of fun, with terms like, “Oh, come on!” or “Are you serious?!” being used instead.

It’s actually quite disappointing that the film turned out this way, as Retreat is could have been quite memorable had there been a bit more tweaking done to the script to help make the first and second act as strong as the third, while also fixing all the mind-boggling moments that continuously arise throughout that cause the frustrating interactive experience mentioned above.

The movie stars Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton as Martin and Kate, a couple going through marital problems who decide that they may be able to rekindle what they’ve lost by revisiting a place that they vacationed at during happier times: a remote cottage located on an isolated island off the coast of Scotland. The problem is, those happier times were in the past, and now, as much as Martin tries to create a spark once again, all that Kate seems to be feeling is sadness and resentment.

It’s a well acted, albeit slower-paced introduction to a film where people will likely be expecting more thrilling elements than they are drama. Of course, the reason it’s done is so that the viewer will gain an understanding of the current state of the relationship between Martin and Kate, so that when things start to go off the track, the viewer wants to see them make it through all the more.

Unfortunately, the movie starts to go off track about the same time Jack (Jamie Bell) shows up, which is definitely not a good thing, considering this is where the film is supposed to grab you by the throat and not let go until the end. It’s frustrating to see it happen, as the ideas here are solid and intriguing. What would you do if you were isolated from the rest of the world, and a man showed up at your door telling you that a deadly outbreak is spreading quickly throughout the world and that your house must be sealed up as soon as possible in order to protect yourself from it? Obviously the first thought is to think the guy is crazy, but then there’s that small, lingering question: What if he’s not?

This is the problem Martin and Kate face, as their only line of communication to the mainland is a radio that hasn’t worked for days, and Jack is adamant that this outbreak is coming, and coming fast. Unsure of what to do, but also scared for their lives, Martin and Kate begin to help Jack barricade the windows and door, all while keeping an eye on their new house-guest.

This is when the problems with the script and pacing really start to kick in. While it’s understandable that it’s unknown what may or may not be happening on the mainland, there’s a constant struggle that Martin and Kate face when it comes to trusting Jack. While what he’s saying may or may not be true, the fact that he acts like a complete nutcase at times leaves you to wonder why this couple makes some of the choices that they do.

One instance, without going into spoilers at all, sees Martin and Kate decide that they’ve had enough of Jack’s craziness and they’ll take their chances on the outside. When they attempt to leave, Jack fires off a couple of rounds of his gun and threatens them. They, of course, choose to stay at that point. However, that night, Martin secretly opens a sunroof window and climbs out to take a look around the island and try and figure something out, I suppose, only to return once again so that when Jack goes to check on them in the morning they’re both there as if nothing happened. If they both wanted to leave, but were forced to say, why didn’t they both just go out the window at night and not look back?

That’s just one of many points in Retreat where the frustrating interactive experience rears its ugly head, and eventually I had to start watching it as though I expected stupid decisions to be made by the characters involved. While that did help make it a bit more tolerable, it’s quite evident that that’s not the type of feeling co-writer/director Carl Tibbetts wanted to get across when making the film. For a directorial debut, Tibbetts does a solid job with Retreat, however, for a story he was so passionate about making, it’s surprising he himself didn’t take the time to perfect it before moving forward.

The acting is really the best aspect of the film. Murphy is a great talent who continues to impress, while Newton does some solid emotional work with what she’s given in the first act of the film. Bell plays the part of the stranger extremely well, and really keeps the viewer wondering just what really is going on. In the “Making of…” special feature, they seemed to all agree that the film had potential, and that belief shines through in their performances.

There’s an emotionally touching and memorable story trapped somewhere in Retreat, however, it’s the script that ironically keeps it from ever reaching its true potential.

The video is shown at a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, and looks decent for the most part. There are a few washed out scenes, however, it’s nothing that’s overly distracting. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital, and comes through clear, though there are times when accents come through slightly muffled; again, nothing that drastically hinders the movie in any way.

Retreat: The Making Of – This featurette comes in at roughly 17 minutes in length and sees interviews with Murphy, Bell, Newton and Tibbetts, as well as the film’s producer. Surprisingly enough, the producer touches on the fact that they knew the script needed work, and set out to fix it before the film went into production. Guess nobody told them that script needed work as well.

There’s also a Photo Gallery.

Retreat wasn’t a bad movie; it just wasn’t very good. There are far too many moments that will cause the viewer to shake their head in frustration, and that’s definitely not a reaction any film sets out to achieve. It’s unfortunate, as the potential the actors spoke about seeing in the interviews is there; it’s just never reached.

Quickfire Films and SC Films International present a Magnet Films Production Retreat. Directed by: Carl Tibbetts. Written by: Carl Tibbetts and Janice Hallett. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton, Jamie Bell. Running time: 90 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: February 21, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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