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  • 4 out of 5

Calibre - a solid Netflix film from a first-time director

Netflix films have an uneven track record. Quality is always high, production values the best, yet sometimes the sum of the parts do not amount to an enjoyable experience. What often lets them down are the script, dialogue or acting. Not so with Calibre. This is a film that delivers all the parts.

Lifelong friends Vaughn Carter (Jack Lowden) and Marcus Trenton (Martin McCann) head to an isolated village in the Scottish Highlands for a weekend hunting trip. Nothing could prepare them for what followed. After a tragic accident they make a series of unfortunate decisions that expose them to justice, Scottish style.

Written and directed by Matt Palmer, Calibre delivers on suspense and an ending that I did not see coming. It is good storytelling. Yes, there are some stereotypical characters and some are not fully rounded however the quality of the cast ensures that none of this matters. The characters are all believable and their motivations realistic. Yes, there are times when the story becomes predictable, as in Act I and II, but not for long. Act III turns things around. The initial scene in the pub is a little Stepford Wives and is a portent of the fate that awaits if one steps out of line. We also get introduced to some of the locals, one of whom appears unhinged however the director is mis-leading us to great effect. There are subtle signs of what is eventually delivered in Act III that make it acceptable.

Then there is the scenery. Scotland is rugged, beautiful and wild. The juxtaposition of the camera on expansive landscapes and facial close-ups helps create a sense of unease and racks up the tension as our protagonists cannot quite believe what is happening even though they created their own destiny.

What is it about forests in the dead of night? Ever since The X-Files, forests seem to be lit with arc lamps from a distance. Yes I know it creates atmosphere and filming a scene in the dark is not very interesting. Maybe it’s me, but I find it distracting.

It’s not without its faults however they are minor. Calibre is a tight piece of storytelling and a fine film. It has borrowed some tropes yet overall the setting, the direction and the cast lifted this film beyond my expectations. I have to confess though, I do have a soft spot for productions made in the UK and Ireland. If I were to put my finger on one element, its the actors. They all look like real people in real situations and are infinitely more believable than some of their Hollywood peers.

A solid film from a first-time director.

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