Directed by: Matt Palmer
Premise: A pair of friends (Martin McCann and Jack Lowden) visits a rural Scottish village for a weekend hunting trip. While in the woods, one of the hunters accidentally kills a boy. They attempt to conceal the crime and get out of the village.
What Works: There is a whole genre of films about city folk going to the country and running afoul of the rural residents usually after some sort of accident or insult. Movies as varied as Deliverance, Two Thousand Maniacs! and Pumpkinhead have offered different permutations on this theme. Calibre is the same sort of tale and the premise isn’t all that different from what we’ve seen before. What Calibre does have is a vivid sense of grief and doom and characters who feel authentic. The movie is led by Martin McCann and Jack Lowden as old friends who go to the country on a hunting trip as a last minute getaway before one of them becomes a father. McCann and Lowden are convincing as men who have been friends for a long time and each of them has specific character turf. McCann’s character is the wild and crazy instigator while Lowden plays the more restrained and responsible half. Even though they are so different the two men have a believable friendship and the filmmakers invest the viewer in their relationship. When things go bad the men are ashamed and horrified by what they’ve done and make a series of decisions intended to be a quick fix but just make everything worse. This is a delicate matter. These men ought to be held to account for what they’ve done but it was an accident and the fate that befalls them doesn’t feel like justice. Calibre deals with slippery moral and ethical questions and the filmmakers lean into those questions in a way that is unsettling. Even before the hunting trip goes sideways, Calibre has a violent atmosphere and a vivid sense of place. Part of that is due to the naturalistic production design as well as the look of the film by cinematographer Márk Györi. The film has a cold and drab color scheme and the wilderness has a rawness that gives the impression of savagery and wildness.
What Doesn’t: Calibre is in some ways an unpleasant movie. The film is about characters who make a series of bad decisions and ultimately pay for their stupidity. The filmmakers make those decisions credible and so we don’t second guess these men but the movie doesn’t deliver the kind of conventional conflicts that go down easy or lend themselves to clear moral distinctions. That’s the point of Calibre and one of the film’s distinguishing features but it’s not a mainstream film in that regard. The plotting suffers from a few coincidences. The villagers learn things just as it becomes inconvenient for the protagonists. That’s a bit softened by the fact that Calibre takes place in a small village and so everybody knows everyone else’s business but it is not always clear who the villagers are and how they relate to one another.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Calibre is a visceral and emotionally wrenching film. The movie may not offer the kind of escapism becoming of more mainstream fare but this is an intelligent and complex work.
Episode: #706 (July 8, 2018)