Calibre (2018) is a Netflix original movie. Matt Palmer has written and directed this British thriller. It became the winner of 2018’s Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. This dark, gripping, and slow-burning thriller is quite an underrated gem. Its running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes. A horrific tragedy during a deer hunting trip in Scottish Highlands, amidst a peaceful village and beautiful setting. It’s disturbing, suspenseful, and nail-bitting. As the plot proceeds, fear and tension intensify. Brilliant low-light cinematography, excellent long shots, effective scenes, marvelous performances, and a carefully executed plot. All of this makes the Calibre movie undoubtedly worth remembering.
The gist of the plot is that it’s a domino effect of how one “hunting accident” leads from one crime to another, about how one pays the price of someone else’s mistake and ultimately gets trapped in an inescapable web. Director Matt Palmer does an outstanding job of unfolding the plot in such a way the viewers will sympathize with the two leads despite knowing they are technically murderers. The guilt of their wrongdoings eventually haunts and corners them. Calibre is a brutal movie with an eye for detail and demands the same from its audience. It is a morality puzzle for the audience to evaluate to what extent forgiveness and friendship can go.
Besides several twists and suspense, the movie also highlights a difference in the moral culture between rural and urban people. How each can surpass the other in savagery, in different situations. However, it doesn’t depict the country folk as stereotypical, over-the-top caricatures like in John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972) with which a comparison is perhaps inevitable. The storytelling is more nuanced in Calibre.
Important cast members are Jack Lowden as Vaughn, Martin McCann as Marcus, Tony Curran as Logan McClay, Ian Pirie as Brian McClay, Kate Bracken as Iona, Kitty Lovett as Kara, Cal MacAninch as Al McClay, Cameron Jack as Frank McClay, and Donald McLeary as Grant McClay.
The horror element in the movie is largely psychological in nature.
Analysis of Calibre movie (*spoilers ahead*)
An emotionally exhausting film, Calibre examines the limits of humanity, friendship, cruelty, and cover-ups. All of which leads to an unimaginable price paid by the two friends, Vaughn and Marcus. However, it’s complicated because everything happened from their unfortunate, amoral decisions. This movie is a smartly arranged psychological thriller. Gradually dialing up the pressure until it explodes in an unforgettable climax. The two male leads have done a great job of creating a stunning balance between the viewers’ sympathy and condemnation, as the true personalities of Vaughn and Marcus gradually unravel in front of the viewers. There is a good amount of cat-and-mouse playing between the Scottish locals and the two friends that rachet up the stakes.
Calibre doesn’t waste too much time in character building. Vaughn is young, soft-hearted, somewhat passive, and soon-to-be-father. He is the one who gets overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and exposure throughout because of their actions. Marcus is wilder, rash, sharp-minded, and calm. He can to go any extent to save himself and his friend. Apart from Lowden and McCann, the supporting cast also played excellently to elevate Calibre to a level of scary realism. Tony Curran perfectly portrayed his role as one of the village heads. A level-headed person with a sense of mercy. Ian Pirie as Brian is scarier and ruthless, who believes in the principle of an eye for an eye. Essentially the duo provides a counterpoint to the two flawed protagonists. Cal MacAninch plays a character who is good at reading people, one who talks less and observes more.
To conclude, brotherly friendship goes haywire and backfires badly in Calibre. Vaughn’s last scene indicates that life will never be the same for him anymore. Chock full of terror and guilt, he now has the blood of Marcus on his hands on top of Sammy’s. Calibre is a rewarding film best relished with patience. The film slowly pulls viewers inside a whirlpool of emotions and psychological underpinnings that formulate and mutate on the go.
The movie ends on a note of revenge. It is up to the audience to decide who actually “deserved” to live. Vaughn – because of his unborn child, an unintentional crime, marked innocence, and his predilection to confess – stands out as deserving of greater mercy, for Logan and possibly the audience too. However, did Marcus really deserve to die for whatever he did? It was to protect his friend and himself, and in the light of circumstances his malevolent worldview does not appear particularly misplaced.
Even the title, “calibre,” is both a technical term for the diameter of a gun barrel as well as the capacity or potential in a person. And the movie connects these two things – one material, the other metaphysical – not just thematically but also as a plot device. So this outwardly picturesque movie ends on a disturbing note, but the shocking denouement makes it worth the patience.