We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
A group of hikers encounter dangerous criminals in the remote mountains of Scotland in this British take on the survivalist-thriller genre, starring Melissa George
Julian Gilbey's survivalist thriller opens with a stunning sweep across the wild and dangerous mountains of the Scottish highlands, and it's a suitably grandiose beginning for a film that offers a rare British take on a particularly American genre. For the most part Gilbey runs well with the idea. With such a playfully bleak title viewers could be forgiven for expecting a torture-porn horror outing similar to Wolf Creek, but Gilbey's film is actually a glossy action-adventure featuring some very tense encounters with gun-toting criminals.
Melissa George stars as Alison who, with her adrenaline-junkie friends, has her weekend of rock-climbing interrupted after stumbling upon a breathing tube sticking out from the ground in a remote area. On further investigation they find a terrified Serbian girl in a tiny cell below the surface. When they decide to get her to safety they find that whoever put her there is ready to get her back by any means necessary.
George is spectacular as the female lead, whose portrayal of strength goes beyond "hard-hearted woman". Sadness, fear and self-doubt mingle with a steely determination and it is a credit to both George's performance and Gilbey's script that Alison never feels like a Lara Croft clone. Somewhat of a postmodern final girl, she heads up a cast who all perform solidly, and react convincingly to the extreme pressure of the situation.
Given the film's modest budget its visuals are astounding. Stunts (involving climbing up precarious surfaces and falling back off of them) all look extremely realistic and horrifying. Much of the film is spent drumming up horror through sweaty-palmed, vertiginous peril and it works wonderfully.
Minor drawbacks are some clunky exchanges, cliched tough-guy villains and lacklustre dream sequences, though the onus placed on the killers' relentless pursuit of the girl, unexpected deaths and false promises of safety all keep the tension high.
A solid effort that should entertain viewers, In A Lonely Place To Die owes more to the character-driven suspense of The River Wild than the overblown action of Cliffhanger, and it's is great to see a British attempt at the genre.
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