Don’t watch any trailers, don’t watch any clips, don’t read this review or any others before you see Retreat because it will exhaust the uniquely intense experience that this movie offers. If you’ve already seen the trailer and can’t do the whole “tabula rasa” thing, don’t worry it’s still going to grab you by the throat and leave you breathless when the credits roll. Retreat , is one hell of a start to Carl Tibbetts’ career, and it’s exactly the kind of movie I’ve been waiting to see for a long time….
Retreat focuses on a young couple, Kate (Thandie Newton) and Martin (Cillian Murphy), suffering from some unexpected family tragedy. The couple decides to visit the lone cabin on a private island in order to rekindle their marriage and work out some obvious issues. Unfortunately for them, their attempted rejuvenation weekend quickly turns into a fight for survival when a bloody stranger shows up on their doorstep. Let’s leave it at that but trust me, there is way more to the plot than this. In case you’re still reading this and snubbing my suggestion, I’ll try not to give too much away.
Retreat is the directorial debut from Carl Tibettes, hailing from the UK, but watching the film you would have no idea that this was his first feature length flick. The all-star cast of Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell, and Thandie Newton signed on board to make the film simply from having read Tebbetts’, script. Although there are only three characters and a shack, this movie feels absolutely massive and builds intensity the entire way through. If that’s not enough to sell you on this then I don’t know what is.
The film begins with beautiful expansive shots of the landscape and ocean surrounding the island. The sprawling camera work that begins the film becomes all the more important when contrasted with how claustrophobic the rest of the film feels. After the Kate and Martin reach to the island, the camera rarely leaves the house and what you get is constant awkward, crooked angles and tight spaces that work to increase the emotion of the film. These suffocating scenes offer a sense of the isolation and desperation that the couple feels in their tiny cabin surrounded by nothing but trees and water. With films that are shot primarily in one enclosed location it can be awfully difficult to keep things rolling, however this is exactly where Tibbetts succeeds. Retreat takes place in an extremely limited setting but the film builds and builds until your mind can barely take it.
The cinematography of the film is wonderful, but it is not the best part of Retreat. This is not an action heavy flick, but rather it focuses on an eerie atmosphere that leaves your mind in shambles. Tibbetts has a magical ability to make your heart pound out of your chest even in the smallest of scenes. From the moment the wounded stranger enters the picture, reality and truth become so confusing that you have no idea what’s going to happen in the end. As the finale approaches you will think you have it all figured out, but then everything is completely whipped around in another direction. Let’s just say that the end of the film is absolutely jaw dropping.
Cillian Murphy plays the ideal boyfriend, who is not very rugged, handy, or smart, but is caring and willing to do anything to protect his family. The characters are frustrating in their timidity at times, but what the hell would you do with a nutty stranger taking over your house? Retreat is filled with the originality that the horror genre has been lacking lately however, I feel that some audiences may be frustrated by the amount of twisting around that happens in the last 20 minutes of the film.
Retreat is an intense, claustrophobic mind trip that messes with your perception of the truth from start to finish. It nostalgically brings back memories of old Roman Polanski thrillers and explores what it means to be scared, confused, and helpless in the arms of a stranger. This is a tremendous debut from Carl Tibbetts and a very promising start to his career. Retreat will toss you around so much, your mind will be so battered and bruised by the time it’s over that you’ll barely be able to leave your seat.