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EIFF 2018: CALIBRE Review

By Simon Read [07.07.18]


Writer/director Matt Palmer’s debut feature is an intense thriller set in the highlands of Scotland. Part character study, part revenge thriller, it draws inspiration from Straw Dogs and Deliverance in its tale of two city dwellers on a hunting trip who must contend with vengeful locals following a terrible accident in the wilderness. The film won the EIFF’s 2018 Michael Powell Award – its highest accolade – and deservedly so.

Vaughn (Jack Lowden - Dunkirk) is a good-natured but timid father-to-be, who sets off on a shooting holiday to the Highlands with his old school friend Marcus (Martin McCann – Killing Bono), a roguish charmer, fiercely loyal to his friend. The mismatched pair check into their hotel and enjoy a night of beer and whisky at the village pub, befriending two local lassies, and rising the next morning for a hungover day’s shooting in the woods.

Tragedy strikes. The two men must make a profound moral choice. The consequences are dire for both of them. To elaborate further would be to spoil things, for the film unfolds like a nightmare as we find ourselves placed in a classic ‘what would you do?’ situation, and this is the film’s greatest strength.

As we follow the characters of Vaughn and Marcus we watch two very different men attempting to cope and keep cool in an increasingly stressful situation, alongside extremely suspicious and hostile locals. The film deftly forces the audience right into their shoes, and the tension never really lets up.

Palmer’s direction is agreeably unfussy, allowing us to appreciate the heavy lifting done by the lead actors and supporting cast, particularly Tony Curran and Ian Pirie as two local brothers. This is a film which runs on the personalities of the characters, a subtle look or the intonation of line delivery frequently speaking volumes.

During its third act the film reaches a distressing finale, and while for some it may be unsatisfying, we must appreciate that it is not always the result which matters most, but how we get there, and in that sense this film delivers in spades. Besides, exactly on earth does one end a story like this?

Calibre was shot on a budget of £1.5 million, low for a feature film of this nature, and the result is genuinely impressive. I’ve complained in the past that funding frequently seems misplaced when it comes to Scottish cinema. I’m happy that for once I can report a win. Hopefully we’ll see more from Palmer in the future.




Recommended Release:Star Dogs













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