A Lonely Place to Die is one-half of a truly great thriller and one-half of an uninteresting one, combining to create a pretty good effort that feels like a slight missed opportunity. It’s simply too good to label it a misfire, but the film starts from the gate with such a confident, breathless level of suspense that it’s a shame that it can’t be maintained.
Opening with jaw-dropping shots of the Scottish Highlands (shot by cinematographer Ali Asad, who deserves special credit for elevating this indie with a slick look that’s indistinguishable from an A-list Hollywood thriller), we’re first introduced to Alison (Melissa George) as she scales a mountain with two friends. There’s an immediate climbing accident, and coupled with the film’s title, we begin to assume that A Lonely Place to Die will be a man-versus-nature mountaintop survival movie. This is not the case.
To get into the specifics would take some of A Lonely Place to Die’s power away. The best parts of the film are in the opening incidents, with one harrowing surprise after another, before it settles into fairly standard thriller territory. The film’s problems mostly exist on a screenplay level, as the story shifts focus from the characters we’re introduced to in the beginning of the film to a group of less appealing characters that further the plot along without being well-developed. Either the film needed to cut to these new sinister characters less, or they needed more characterization to make the second half of the film work.
Still, director Julian Gilbey effectively establishes himself as one to watch. A Lonely Place to Die is just too well-made to be dismissed as mediocre, but it is a film where the parts are greater than the whole (and there are some really, really great parts). Even if it never quite delivers on its initial promise, it’s a more effective thriller than many bigger, higher-profile productions, and for that reason alone, it deserves to be seen.