Calibre (Matt Palmer, 2018)
What’s this all about?
Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) are going on a hunting trip. Someone should warn them they’d better shoot animals instead of people.
We’re going on a man hunt
I'm not going camping. Hell no. Not only you might be attacked by mosquitoes, but you can also be devoured by bears. Not only you will sleep on a cold, uneven surface, but you might also end up buried alive by some crazy hermit. Because if there's something I learned from movies is that the woods are a dangerous place. Don't trust the environment and, whatever you do, beware of its townspeople.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see how Matt Palmer twists the genre a little bit. The countryside in Calibre is still distressing and the villagers are violent as hell, but, at least in this case, the two main characters are the ones who wreak havoc. Vaughn and Marcus might not do anything on purpose, but they should take all the blame.
Calibre could've been just another take on the man-versus-nature or city-dwellers-versus-villagers theme, but Matt Palmer is more interested in telling a story about toxic masculinity, survival instinct and moral consequences.
No Way Out
What truly works in Calibre is the way Matt Palmer includes plot obstacles without any contrivances. The decisions Vaughn and Marcus take are questionable but realistic. If they can't escape is because there's always something on their way: nosy kids, jealous boyfriends or that necessity of not raising any suspicion. Calibre works as a nerve-wracking thriller thanks to its main character's inability of running away.
Rise of the Wimpy People
Snap out of it, Vaughn!
Vaughn has a quite interesting arc considering we’re in front of a guy that does ab-so-lute-ly nothing. He sulks, feels sick and chickens out. He goes wherever they tell him to go. He’s the true definition of a pushover. He might give moral advice —“We should go to the police” or “You shouldn’t get the bullet of his head”—, but hardly follows any of it.
He plays Jiminy Cricket to his friend Marcus but, just like Pinocchio, Marcus doesn’t pay any attention to him and, just like Pinocchio, they get themselves into a lot of trouble.
This is not survival of the fittest. Vaughn might be a pushover or a wimpy man, but he’s the one who comes out alive. Marcus, on the other hand, takes all the initiative, saves Vaughn on more than one occasion, and gets his hands dirty. Therefore, he’s the one who has to pay. Oh, the irony.
Shooting the deer. Now that’s what I call bad luck.
Those who’d rather watch a movie in their comfortable couch instead of spending the night inside a tent on the pouring rain.
Some other stray observations
Why would anyone go hunting on Scottish woods in the first place?
Good companion pieces
Deliverance (1972) by John Boorman, obviously, or The Revenant (2015) by Alejandro González Iñárritu, or The Edge (1997) by Lee Tamahori, or Preservation (2014) by Christopher Denham, or… you see where I’m going.
Both Jack Lowden and Martin McCann complement each other. Whereas McCann is more hyper and aggressive, Lowden is mopey and timid. I'm sticking with Lowden though because he plays the most complex character.
Chris Wyatt’s editing might be deceptively slow-paced at the beginning, but it later leads to a very nerve-wracking climax.
Judging a film by its trailer.
When the trailer shows both Lowden and McCann bound and gagged, you know they’re going to get caught, and suspect nothing good will wait for them. Watch.
Easier said than done
Spoilers as well. We never hear Vaughn’s confession when the villagers capture him, but I would have let the character blame Marcus for everything and, therefore, give the story some moral ambiguities.
For Your Consideration
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann - Best Actor in a Leading Role but Placed in Supporting so They Don’t Split Votes: Martin McCann - Best Screenplay: Matt Palmer - Best Cinematography: Márk Györi - Best Editing: Chris Wyatt - Best Score: Anne Nikitin - Most Spoilerific Trailer - Best Netflix Movie Lost in the Shuffle
Directed by Matt Palmer | 2018 | United Kingdom
Main cast: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Tony Curran, Kate Bracker, Ian Pirie