Calibre Review: Receiving its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival ahead of its release on Netflix is Matt Palmer’s feature debut, a taut, very impressing feature that might just be one of the best low-budget British genre pieces of the year.

Calibre review by Paul Heath.

Calibre review
Calibre review

As I type this, Calibre has just gone live after Netflix just hours after winning the prestigious Michael Powell Award, which is awarded to an outstanding British feature fiction. Outstanding is certainly one adjective you could describe this film with, but it doesn’t come close to doing this movie justice.

Not knowing what happens is best for this taut thriller, one that obviously draws its influences from the like of Straw Dogs, and Deliverance, the film is far from an easy watch. It’s shocking, violent and tense from the outset, but it is also supremely constructed, stage and, if you can pardon the pun, executed.

Calibre follows two lifelong friends in Vaughn Carter (Jack Lowden) and Marcus Trenton (Martin McCann), both of whom are off to the rural climbs of the Scottish Highlands for a weekend of adventure – Vaughn is weeks away from becoming a father for the first time and leaves a heavily pregnant partner waving him off behind. Marcus is planning a weekend to remember – eating, drinking and hunting in the deep forests of the area. After a first, very alcohol-fuelled evening, one in which the two lads run into the locals in the nearby, solitary pub, the two head off into the woods to grab them a prize. It is here where thing quickly go awry, an accident leading to a chain of events which will see their perfect lads’ getaway turn into one from hell.

To go into more detail would spoil the experience of Palmer’s taut, edgy, career-making modern masterpiece, so I won’t, but what I will do is go into the artistic quality of the piece which has led this to become such a find after quite the understated, limited publicity-driven streaming debut. Its drop onto the streaming service will deny the film a theatrical outing, but what it should do is get the movie an instant mass audience, and alert as many people as possible to this calling card of one of our best emerging talents.

Calibre review
Calibre review

First off, the two male actors leading the piece are excellent, Lowden building on the exposure he received in last year’s sprawling Christopher Nolan epic Dunkirk, and McCann coming off the under-stated but deservedly applauded performance in The Survivalist from 2016. McCann portrays the cock-sure Northern Irish lad, while Lowry is his more reserved pal, and because of their shenanigans, the more petrified of the pair. Both are exceptional in every scene.

The fine performances are backed up by song strong talent behind the game. Weekend cinematographer Márk Györi masterfully captures the dank, gritty vistas and confining forest visuals expertly, while God’s Own Country and ’71 editor Chris Wyatt assembles the footage and cranks the tenseness up to eleven. It’s is unrelentingly difficult to watch, but oh so glorious the construction you can’t help but admire it in every single way.

It is Palmer himself who deserves the most praise – his film is one of the most impressive for years in any genre, in fact. The filmmaker takes a simple idea, essentially a stag-weekend gone wrong – one which has been done a million times before, all-too-often to mediocre standard – and turns it massively on its head and makes everything seem to effortless.

Clearly shot on a budget, Calibre is one of the most stirring and most gripping experiences of the year, but it is also a film that presents one of the most exciting British talents to the emerge in a decade in writer/ director Matt Palmer. We can’t wait to see what he does next. Perhaps something a little less stressful next time though, eh Matt?

Calibre review by Paul Heath, June 2018.

Calibre is now playing on Netflix globally.