Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #06 – Retreat & Trapped

Thumped’s Random DVD trip, wherein Hector Grey enters the Xtravision across the road and grabs the first couple of things that appear in the shelf. This week: Retreat & Trapped

Thumped’s Random DVD trip: Wherein Hector Grey enters the Xtravision across the road and grabs the first couple of things that appear in the shelf.

An airbourne virus threatens humanity, apparently, in Retreat, and an IRA bomb maker gets Trapped in an outrageous web of slurry.

 

Cork-elf Cillian Murphy and his wife Thandie Newton en route to a remote island off Scotland to sort out their problems. It’s clear that they have problems, by the puss on Thandie. She excels at puss. As the boat that brought them to this, ahem, Retreat, motors back off to the mainland, the two characters are alone, the only souls on this barren, windy island. It’s a oft repeated trope, that couple who want to sort stuff out, or get over some tragedy in their lives, head away somewhere remote, for contemplation and to re-find each other, and their shit gets fucked up by an interloper and that’s when they discover that they were never out of love, et cetera. So in the beginning, it all goes according to plan, the generator packs in, Thandie ignores her husbands entries to take wind battered walks along the coast and one wonders why they would bother being together at all.

Thandie’s had a miscarriage, see, and this is the well of humanity that’s supposed to give these characters a depth, a pathos, a grieving. It doesn’t really, to be honest. It’s a fairly facile device, and it would have been far more affecting if they were just happy, or having a holiday for the crack, or brought a bag of yips with them. Anything but the subtle heart wrenching, almost imperceptible (but so obvious) distance of a couple who Want Different Things. The I’m-not-ready-yet versus the biological clock. A man wrote this script, by the way. Their dull reverie, however, is insulted by the arrival of our interloper, a mysterious stranger, battered and bloodied, washed up on the shore. He’s in military garb and armed. When they try to contact the mainland to report this anomaly, there’s no response. How curious.

Jack, the stranger, played by Billy Elliot, acted by Jamie Bell and impersonating Billy Zane in Dead Calm, awakens, makes sure we all know he’s not a ballet dancing poof any more, and unravels his story via his barely audible hard-man mumble. There’s a pandemic virus attacking the world, with ebola like symptoms. People begin to cough up their own lungs within hours, and there’s no cure. They must batten down the hatches, as it were, cover the windows in plastic bags, hammer down the doors, break up the furniture to keep out other people who will try to come there, and who will be carrying the virus. It’s all a bit far fetched, but Cillian buys it. So much so that he returns the gun that himself and Thandie had taken from Jack earlier. Thus begins the siege, our three heroes, captive by an unseen, possibly unreal malevolence outside. Thus begins the “suspense”. Except there’s not much in the way of suspense. It’s a clever idea, and the end redeems it for me, as each revelation during the dénouement serves as a minor twist, but the characters are poorly drawn, without a great deal of depth. The whole miscarriage, strained relationship thing is a burden. It’s just a way of creating an implicit conflict, rather than exploring one in the script. In 28 Days Later, another Cillian versus the virus picture, the characters are likewise mere ciphers, but that’s hardly noticeable as the action and adversaries stack up. Here, in a three hander, there’s no such luxury. Luckily the actors elevate the whole thing, lending a gravitas to the words that isn’t apparently there. And Jamie Bell really wants you to know he’s no dancing poof.

A decent flick, tries to be all Knife In The Water and fails, but has a intriguing central idea and some good performances. Not bad for a debut effort, undoubtedly Carl Tibbets will be handed a budget and get to gorge himself on daft ideas like Neil Marshall did, and we’ll be left wondering what if, what if….

Trapped was released in 2008 under a different name (Anton, according to IMDB), but is only getting its DVD release now, probably on humanitarian grounds, to spare us poor saps who grab the first thing that catches their eye. Lets praise the filmmakers for having the gumption to do all that’s involved in getting a movie from page to screen, and then to little screen, particularly in a shit country such as Ireland. However, this movie would have been much better served if they’d actually edited what was on the page before running around wielding cameras like a teenager might his tumescent cock; aimlessly and selfishly, high on the action they believed they’d concocted.

Anton, our protagonist, returns to Cavan after a while on the seas. His wife has been dutifully sitting around all that time waiting for him, and his bessie mate, Brendan, a scrawny, red haired firebrand, can’t wait for them to renew their machismo man-love. But all is not well in the land, as this is Cavan in 1972, and the troubles from up north in the wake of Bloody Sunday, cause the two men to sign up to the “organisation” to offer their services as bomb makers and petty criminals. It all goes wrong and they end up in jail, after being grassed up by Anton’s marvellously hirsute brother. Anton eventually, ridiculously, gets himself transferred to a jail-for-mentals, and escapes from there after some severe beatings are handed down to the guards in the white jackets, sitting in their tiny office watching television. We presume at this point that they were the only guards in the entire jail-for-mentals complex, and that whoever is left in the building forgets to mention to anyone in the outside world that a dangerous criminal, who’s just brained a hospital employee with his own truncheon, is on the run, thus easing Anton’s transfer to the continent, and onward to Paris. Yeah, he’s lucky like that. Like when he finds a gun in a toilet in a building somewhere, for no apparent reason, or when the cops give up looking for him because it appears they’ve failed to notice the building has another storey.

Trapped is awful, unfortunately. It would be churlish and unnecessary to start eviscerating the minutiae, so here goes: the lead actor, who is also the writer, is more wooden than the forest moon of Endor, who uses his eyebrows to convey any emotion he happens to be mangling at any given point. He’s not alone in this. All the cast are similarly poor, even veteran hack Gerard McSorley, but it’s not entirely their fault. The words they have to utter are laced with cliché, cumbersome and prosaic. Characters all have the same voice, reuse verbal tics. Minor characters appear for a second on screen and then later turn up as major players. The editing is poor, the cast often caught putting on their game faces. The music is hackneyed and obvious. Characters move about with a consummate ease, traversing nations without impediment. Ludicrous plot twist is heaped upon ludicrous plot twist. The motivation that drives Anton to do any of the things he does in the entire movie are conspicuous by their absence, other than returning home to rescue his missus from a situation he’s created. He’s also utterly unsympathetic, basically an emotionally stunted, self serving moron, whose every decision just exacerbates his debacle. The Troubles are oddly peripheral, used just as an excuse it seems to present guns, and the opportunity to use them, to the characters. It doesn’t seem to be a political film, but then it’s so all over the kip that that might be its overriding intention, it’s kind of hard to tell.

When the plot twists itself up in its own preposterous entrails, Trapped enters its own. As it becomes more silly, it becomes unwittingly hilarious, accidentally surreal. I laughed longer and harder than I have done at any recent comedy, particularly when our protagonists end up at some hippie party in Paris. The key to getting into this film is, therefore, to get toasted. Nicely toasted. I had some grass that I nicked from my brother and it saved the evening for me. Probably ruined his, however, when he discovered he had none left. But it could have been worse, he could have had to watch this whilst entirely sober. Shudder. 

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