Films Reviews

Calibre (2018) – Review

Netflix's new Scottish-set thriller is a wild ride!

There is not much else to say other than Netflix’s newest original movie, Calibre is genuinely fantastic. It gave me a feeling that most films rarely do, full body tension from which I’m not released until the end credits begin to roll. That’s because the movie grips you. It hooks you right into its contained story and characters. It’s a rare kind of movie in that way where nothing feels out of place, you find it difficult to fault it and you just become totally and utterly engrossed in it for the full 90 minutes.

Matt Palmer writes and directs his first feature in which two lads on a sort of stag holiday to a remote Scottish village. They get involved in a hunting accident which kills a child and father from said village. Most of the movie then follows them as they become swamped with guilt, paranoia and regret as they dispose to the body and try to play it cool for the rest of the weekend. Someone could tell you that they’ve seen it all before, but they’d then be missing out on the tightest script and execution of a movie from the festival so far. Its stripped away to focus on only what is completely necessary to these guys and their stories. It is a movie packed full of tension and continuous building as they believe the villagers are beginning to slowly realise what is happening. So much can be happening to these characters with this one singular strand of the story, no subplots that distract you or take you away, a constant climb in tension.

You feel the sympathy but also anger in the way they deal with the situation they are presented with. The characters are complex and nuanced, not only due to a great script but to a barrage of strong performances from the cast. The two main characters Vaughn and Marcus are played by Jack Lowden and Martin McCann. The two of them are exceptional like the dynamic between them. Vaughn being much more sympathetic with a baby on the way and Marcus being the loyal best friend trying to help them get out of the situation unscathed. Very different characters with much more complexity in actions and behaviour that can be said without spoiling the movie completely.

The town itself plays a part in the movie. A stunning setting in the highlands, which was revealed by Matt Palmer in a Q&A after the movie, was filmed 20 minutes off the motorway to Edinburgh. It is on its way down from a once prosperous place. In need of investment and a good image. Tony Curran, who has starred in a variety of TV but I fondly remember for his portrayal Vincent Van Gogh from Matt Smith era Doctor Who. In this he plays the character of Logan, a leader of sorts for this place, is desperate to get the village back on track. It’s more of a large family that live there which is why the disappearance of the father and son affects them so much. Curran is fantastic. Terrifying the one minutes, sympathetic the next. A special mention should also be given to Ian Pirle, who plays pure evil and bitter as the excellent Brian, one of the seven or so brothers of Logan.

It must be rewarded for the way it continuous builds and builds a scene full of tension. A particularly good example of this is a dinner scene very soon after the accident has happened in which Vaughn and Marcus are somewhat forced into having dinner with Logan and another one of his brothers. It is the kind of scene that will have you gripping whatever is closest to you and forcing you to the edge of your seat. Palmer creates something fantastic with his crew.

Calibre is a dark and intense thriller of a film. Full of scenes that will leave you clenched beyond belief. Hats off to Matt Palmer for having such a stunning directorial debut. Beautifully shot and directed with a parade of strong performances and a tight script cut of all the fat, for a nice and clean story. Well as nice as you can get when it involves the shooting of a child and the guilt surrounding it.

This review was written for and appeared on as part of my coverage of the Edinburgh Film Festival.

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