Sunday, June 22, 2014

Notes for the End of the World: The Retreat

2011, Carl Tibbetts -- Netflix

The Retreat is a by-the-numbers thriller about two people confined to a house, captives of a madman. It stars Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Inception) and Thandie Newton (Chronicles of Riddick, tv show Rogue) as a married couple surviving the still birth of their child.  Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, King Kong) is the madman who shows up on their doorstep, wounded and bleating about the end of the world. According to Jack, a virus has appeared in the world and in the few short days while the couple were spending some alone time in a quaint cottage on an isolated island, the world has fallen. He tells them how it is all Road Warrior out there, all violent people seeking to escape the plague. We are never sure whether to believe him, with no evidence at all, or to add this to the premise of the movie.

As a movie, it easily hits all the familiar notes of a thriller. The couple don't quite support each other, having to deal with the still birth in their own ways, but repressing the anger with each other. Jack is extreme, dominating and intent on expanding the rift between the two. The questions as to the validity of his claims are given equal amounts of doubt and support, with a broken radio and the mysterious disappearance of the cottage's caretaker, who should have been here days ago. And when the two began to rebel, Jack threatens with violence. Who is to be the bigger man, Cillian Murphy or Jamie Bell? Who will Thandie gravitate towards, loyalty and love or the strength of a survivor?

It was actually somewhat of a surprise that there was actually a plague. After the notes of the thriller are all played out, and Thandie choses Cillian, Jack is shown as just a madman, a criminal that was confined to a military hospital and given the disease. When he escaped, it escaped into the world with him. His first victim was his wife. In a small bid for redemption, he actually escaped to the island to isolate himself from the world. The only thing awaiting him outside was death at the hands of the military. But he is a bad man, one that cannot redeem. And as the story of the couple ends, so ends the story of the world. And yes, it was that bleak of an ending.

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