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Film Review: Calibre

29 June 18 words: Ashley Carter

The highly anticipated British thriller from Nottingham's Wellington Films is available to view on Netflix now...

Director: Matt Palmer

Starring: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Tony Curran

Running time: 101 mins

A weekend getaway to the Scottish highlands descends into a living nightmare for two life-long friends in Calibre, the debut feature from writer/director Matt Palmer. Produced by Nottingham’s Wellington Films - the team behind 2006’s London to Brighton – this gritty British thriller evokes the locals vs. outsiders motif from the likes of Deliverance or Straw Dogs, but successfully avoids familiarity or cliché. Rather, Calibre is a film that constantly keeps you guessing, providing silence when you expect bloodshed and chaos when you expect calm. 

Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) decide to take a weekend away from their urbanite lives to go hunting in the wilds of Caledonia. Leaving behind a pregnant fiancée, Vaughn is clearly more in need of a break from life’s worries than the seemingly more easy going Marcus. After an opening night of heavy drinking, the pair set off on a stag hunt that quickly turns into an unthinkable tragedy, setting off a chain of events that will have disastrous consequences. 

Rising star Lowden, who recently shone as Collins, the downed Spitfire pilot who barely survived Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, provides another display of why he is amongst the most sought after young British actors working today.  His relationship with McCann’s Marcus has an air of believability that rings true from the opening scene and never deviates. McCann also excels as the wilder of the pair, leading from the front when it comes to chatting up girls, getting in to fights, taking drugs or, once tragedy has ensued, deciding the pair’s course of action. 

Calibre is both an outstanding debut feature for Palmer and the jewel in the crown of Wellington’s impressive body of work

There’s a tenacious efficiency to Palmer’s direction that sees any excess in plot stripped away, leaving a film of pure muscle.  Credit must also go to his editor, the veteran Chris Wyatt, whose previous credits have included Dead Man’s Shoes, This Is England, God’s Own Country and ’71.  Together, the pair maintain an almost unbearable level of tension right up until the film’s bloody, ferocious conclusion. Never relying on cheap thrills or shock tactics, Calibre often either avoids showing the more savage acts of violence, or presents them in the blink of an eye, making them far more effective and realistic.

Similarly, the film refuses to simplistically portray its characters as good or bad, instead painting both parties as equally deserving (or undeserving) of our sympathies. This subtle balancing act only ramps up the sense of tension and intrigue, and renders you in a state of constantly guessing as to what will happen next. 

With a brand new Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, a worldwide release on Netflix and a flurry of positive reviews, Calibre is both an outstanding debut feature for Palmer and the jewel in the crown of Wellington’s impressive body of work. It will be fascinating to see what they both do next. 

Did you know? Writer/director Matt Palmer makes a brief cameo as villager walking in the background.

Calibre is available to view on Netflix now

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