By Don Simpson | October 21, 2011
Director: Carl Tibbetts
Writers: Carl Tibbetts, Janice Hallett
Starring: Jamie Bell, Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton
Kate (Thandie Newton) and Martin (Cillian Murphy) are one of those stereotypically troubled couples who seem to appear in almost every throwaway thriller nowadays. They are having some pretty severe marital issues, so they opt to retreat to a secluded island where their only means of communication with the outside world is via a CB radio (of course there is no cell phone reception) and their rental cottage is powered by a [bum] generator. Oh, and it goes without saying that the CB radio and the generator both go dead — like you did not see that one coming — thus Kate and Martin find themselves trapped. Cue a mysterious stranger (Jamie Bell) — like you did not see that one coming either — who suddenly appears on the island with news that the entire world has gone down the crapper. Kate and Martin are left with no other options than to believe him — though it is quite obvious that they have their doubts.
Writer-director Carl Tibbetts’ Retreat is a tautly-contrived, claustrophobic thriller that feels like a method acting dexterity test in which the three actors are tirelessly competing to determine which of them can become the most psychologically unhinged. (Winner: Jamie Bell) Tibbetts does his absolute best to insure that none of the three mentally damaged characters are likeable or deserving of our sympathy; and, in a strange sort of way, this makes the abrupt and uncompromising ending all that more satisfying.
Unfortunately, the plot seems almost too clinical, too contrived; some of the plot twists are just too damn ridiculous. Worst of all, I found the entire set-up to be unfathomable — Kate and Martin would have never thought that taking this retreat would be a good idea in the first place. It is far too obvious that these two characters are at a certain stage in their relationship that they cannot stand to be within 100 yards of each other. I mean, just observe the menacing way that they glare at each other; they way they refuse to respond when called for. So why would they go on this retreat together? Even taking their uninvited guest out of the equation, this seems like it would have been a recipe for disaster.