A Brilliantly Paced, Methodical Thriller
Calibre is the sort of film that benefits from going in blind with no prior knowledge of the film, especially in relation to its official trailer. The story is simple enough – a hunting trip between two life-long friends quickly becomes a nightmare as a tragedy ensues, resulting in a tense, isolating thriller dripping in gorgeous visuals showing off the landscape of Scotland. The characters are well fleshed out for the most part too, with some long, exhausting bites of dialogue and perfectly timed instances of silence used effectively to heighten the suspense before a well worked finale that provides some welcome relief from the tension choking large stretches of the plot.
The story follows soon-to-be-a-Dad Vaughn (Jack Lowden) who celebrates his engagement and future fatherhood by agreeing to a hunting trip with best friend Marcus (Martin McCann). As they travel into the heart of an isolated Scottish village in the highlands, they’re greeted with an inhospitable reception from the locals complete with suspicious looks and off-hand warnings to stay away from the local girls. With the seeds sown early on, the film takes its time to bask in the unpleasant reception the two receive before diving into the meat of the plot, the two men going hunting. It’s here that Calibre changes its tone from one of awkward unpleasantness to outright shock as the two friends are forced to take drastic measures after tragedy strikes and the plot moves into full on thriller mode.
Calibre certainly takes its time getting to the heart of the plot but the wait is certainly worth it, with a second half providing some great pay-off for the built up tension early on and a story full of awkward dialogue exchanges and some genuinely unnerving moments. The methodically slow pace, use of silent pauses and the harsh, bleak landscape work really well in alienating the two friends too, raising the tension to uncomfortable heights for large chunks of the film. The breathtaking establishing shots really show off the beauty of Scotland too and do a great job of subconsciously emphasising just how isolated Vaughn and Marcus are.
There are inevitably going to be those who don’t take to Calibre’s style, whether it be the long build-up, simple aesthetic design or the overall premise; expect to spend a good 40 to 50 minutes or so becoming acquainted with the two friends and the Scottish locals before the suspense and tension begins to pay off. For those who can persevere or enjoy slow-burn thrillers, Calibre is a really impressive entry and does a great job with very little flair or flashy visuals. There’s no large action set pieces – bar a foot chase late on – and Calibre is all the better for it. With the suspense high and the two characters well written with compelling arcs, Netflix produces another sleeper hit and one that’s well worth checking out.