Directed by: Matt Palmer
Cast: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Olivia Morgan, Tony Curran, Kate Bracken
Written by Hunter Williams
In the ‘Making of Shadow of a Doubt’ (1943), one of Hitchcock’s colleagues discussed Hitch’s fascination with bringing a sense of menace to a small, everyday American town. The wholesomeness of urban neighborhoods is juxtaposed by the dangers of being in the deep city. 75 years later, Matt Palmer in his directorial debut, ‘Calibre’, employs the same painful suspense with the vast landscape of Scottish Highlands as the backdrop to a small village mystery.
Vaughn (Jack Lowden) says goodbye to his fiance, Anna (Olivia Morgan), before leaving with a lifelong friend, Marcus (Martin McCann) for a weekend long hunting trip. The village is small and dreary, having the majority of the town’s citizens couped up in bars during the day and barn houses during the night. If It weren’t for the village’s reputation of being a well-known hunting center, the place would be abandoned. While settling in, Vaughan and Marcus make friends with the ladies and enemies with the old, scruffy power holders of the town. It is the worst impression that could’ve been made in the event that something goes wrong.
Nothing could prepare them for what follows.
It was obvious from the beginning, ‘Calibre’ was a debut effort. This isn’t a criticism so much as it is an observation. Netflix’s recent film additions have been increasingly made up of indie filmmakers whose vision outdo the budget available to them outside of such an opportunity. It’s why reviewing films like ‘Calibre’ are becoming more important as the market continues to change rapidly in new and innovative ways.
In Palmer’s case, it works to his advantage. ‘Calibre’ exercises patience in Györi’s creping photography, only moving when the camera is an extension of an object within the film. It makes the story feel dense, despite its rather short run time of 100 minutes. This slow-moving pace builds tension within basic scenes, leading to an explosive final act that makes whatever came before it looks like a half measure in what’s considered thrilling.
The ending, while admittedly predictable, feels refreshingly dark in that it wasn’t afraid to force characters into bold choices. Sure, uncovering the mystery is satisfying. Adhering to moral conventions of law and death can *still* work. But, Matt Palmer disregards what’s easy for what is haunting.
The “resolution” to the mystery is as bloody as it is sad, which is why the final shot captures Vaughn’s traumatic weekend by staring the camera directly into his eyes as though he acknowledges that the audience, too, was complicit to the horror and yet nobody did anything.