Julian Gilbey’s last directorial outing was Rise of the Footsoldier, the most toxic of the “Essex boys murders” movies, made worse by Gilbey’s evident technical skill.
Happily, his follow-up feature sees him on firmer ground, somewhat ironically as the perilous Highland terrain in A Lonely Place To Die is one of the film’s scariest characters.
Going the “hunted humans” route of countless films (The Most Dangerous Game, Deliverance, Rituals, Hard Target, King of the Hill, etc, etc), Gilbey and brother/co-writer Will construct a ruthlessly efficient suspense engine.
On a climbing holiday in the Scottish mountains, Alison (George) and her friends are plunged into a nightmare upon discovering a young Serbian girl buried in the ground, breathing through an air tube.
While getting her to the nearest town they become the target of various deadly, armed strangers and the chase is on.
Although the framework is well-worn, Gilbey shoots the action with a dynamism that puts you right on the dangerous cliff-faces, into the freezing water and directly in the crosshairs and stages not one but two gasp-out-loud mountain falls that make this not for the vertiginous.
The sizeable good-guy body count, including one shocking offscreen death signaled by a spray of blood to the face, maintains the high level of tension, with even the climactic relocation to a local town (hosting a bizarre festival) offering no respite.
A solid supporting cast including Ed Speleers of Eragon almost-fame, Eamonn Walker and Karel Roden gamely throw themselves into the hardship and George proves once again she can carry a movie.
But Sean Harris as the chief bad guy steals the show with his flinty-eyed, zero emotion performance, delivering one of the year’s most boo-hiss villain monologues.
A worthy entry into the violent wilderness sub-genre.