November 1, 2011


Director: Carl Tibbetts - Runtime: 90 mins

A couple holidaying on a remote island might not sound the most intriguing premise for a suspense filled roller coaster ride and yet Retreat effortlessly weaves tension and raw emotion into the safest and secluded of settings.

Kate (Thandie Newton) and Martin (Cillian Murphy) are a broken couple, taking a break in an unpopulated remote Scottish island. A place that holds happy memories that Martin at least hopes they can recapture in order to douse the sores of their ailing relationship.  Blackholme Island is a coarse, harsh environment, exposed to the most brutal elements of nature, Fairweather Cottage is equally unforgiving a cold and remote structure. Maybe first time director Carl Tibbetts is evoking nature as a reflection of humanity much like Bronte did with Wuthering Heights, either way the feral setting is perfect for the events that follow. And the catalyst for those events is the washed up, bloodied and unconscious  body of army soldier Jack (Jamie Bell). The couple retrieve Jack from the island's shore and bring him into their temporary home.

Jack has a horrifying reveal, presenting the couple with information that will alter their lives forever and without spoilers lets just say he tells them all is not well back on the mainland. But do they trust the stranger and help him? Do they indulge his potentially disturbed fantasy? Or run screaming for the hills? The film hinges on a series of key moments and key decisions each layered with an ever increasing sense of tension and suspense. The isolation and unforgiving location helps feed the paranoia and mistrust, whilst Bell is utterly believable as the unfortunate and conflicted stranger. Cillian Murphy gets a rare opportunity to play a straight role and he and Thandie Newton make a convincingly fractured couple in crisis.

Bell certainly gets to showcase and flex his full range of acting skills in this adeptly shot and directed three-header. The island is also a star in its own right and the fact that the whole thing is shot sequentially is testament to the skills of the director and actors involved. The ending is quite simply brilliant and for me really helped make this film, sadly I can't give anymore away - you'll have to reinforce the edge of your seat and prepare to sit uncomfortably on it when you watch Retreat!

Want to know more? We caught up with director Carl Tibbetts to find out about how the film was created and shot, working with the actors and his own influences and opinions on the film industry - click here to listen to the podcast