Two friends celebrate the last moment of freedom with a hunting trip but a mistake lands them in a really tense situation in Matt Palmer’s Calibre.
This is a film that is best experienced knowing as little about it as possible which makes it very difficult to review. I’ll be as vague as possible when mentioning specific plot details but I will refer to certain key scenes.
Part of what makes this film work so well is that a lot of time is spent developing the setting into something that feels very real. There isn’t a lot of time to build this but what time it has is used very economically. There’s an implied history and sense of community to the small town the film takes place in and a clear hierarchy containing a number of key characters who have enough depth to service their role in the story without feeling like an obvious plant to make the plot move forward. This isn’t true in all cases as some of the native characters don’t have enough time to rise above what the story needs from them.
Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) are the protagonists who set off to the Highlands on their hunting trip. More of the focus is given to Vaughn with the added detail of his imminent fatherhood being used to build more of an identity around him. Marcus is the skilled hunter who mainly exists to bring different skills to the table but the two actors do a great job fleshing out their parts and interact in a way that makes their friendship feel genuine and lived in. The film does more than enough to make the audience root for them when the situation escalates.
Logan McClay (Tony Curran) is the leader of the community and it’s easy to see why. He’s written as a highly intelligent, confident and reasonable man who leads his people with conviction while also having his own ideas about what the continued survival of his community means. He talks at length about how hard things are for them and there’s an undercurrent of tension in the way the people behave that necessitates strong leadership. Tony Curran is compassionate when he needs to be and very menacing when the film requires it so his character has a lot of range to him that continues to make him interesting. It’s a great performance that really helps bring the community to life while offering an oppositional presence to Vaughn and Marcus who have to deal with the fact that they are knowingly messing with a proud man who always has the well-being of his people at the forefront of his mind. This depth is what makes every aspect of this film so interesting.
Calibre is a film drowning in tension that is used to great effect throughout after the particular incident takes place. There is a particularly effective dinner scene that does such a great job making the audience feel as uncomfortable as the characters trying to hide the truth. It’s a great example of how such a simple conversation can have really dark undertones making for a really uncomfortable situation. Other moments are similarly effective and there’s a dark comedic quality to some of the more intense sequences as it becomes almost funny how badly the plans of the two outsiders fall apart.
Another major strength is a sharp script that makes great use of all of the different elements to build a rich tension filled experience. Very minor elements and throwaway lines are brought back in unexpected ways that make every second of film and every line of dialogue feel meticulously crafted to serve the greater whole. Blurring the line between right and wrong throughout also helps to keep the audience on their toes and furthers the idea that the characters involved are wonderfully complex.
As with many stories of this nature there are some contrivances that exist to make the narrative work and there are some aspects of the third act that don’t quite hang together because the implications of certain actions are overly outlandish when compared to the more grounded nature of the rest of the film. It’s a very small criticism and it doesn’t derail the narrative in any measurable way but it is somewhat distracting and feels slightly at odds with the rest of the film.
An excellent viewing experience with great characters, strong world building and a sharp script that is dripping in tension. The film takes the time to develop the rural community to make it more real and establishes the lead characters as sympathetic though never fails to blur the line between right and wrong in a way that allows the established characters to be complex in a situation that is far from simplistic in its execution. Tension is created really well throughout in several key scenes where audience knowledge is used as subtext for suspicion and implied threat. It’s constantly effective and visceral in the execution of these key moments and is sure to keep the viewing audience gripped.
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