There are some moments which are easily seen and understood long before they arrive: school, graduation, friendships, engagements, children, but it is the moments which nobody could predict which are the big ones, which test the bonds and boundaries of friendships and push even the strongest to the limits of what they can and cannot do to protect themselves in the worst situations.

Friends since they met at boarding school, Vaughn Carter (Dunkirk’s Jack Lowden) and Marcus Trenton (The Rezort’s Martin McCann) drive out from Edinburgh on a weekend shooting trip in Culcarran, Vaughn kissing his pregnant fiancé goodbye before she crawls back beneath the duvet even though his mind remains with her while Marcus looks ahead to the hunt.

They arrive and set about drinking and mingling with the locals, some welcoming, such as Logan (Defiance’s Tony Curran) and his cousin Al (The Awakening’s Cal MacAninch), some perhaps too welcoming, such as Kara and Iona (Rillington Place’s Kitty Lovett and Being Human’s Kate Bracken), whose interest in the outsiders does not sit well with the regulars at the bar who feel they have proprietary rights over the lassies.

Hungover and catching the hair of the dog, Vaughn carrying an unfamiliar high-powered rifle having left his own ammunition back at the hotel, the pair head out into the dense forest, the tall mountains beyond and the mist burning off as the winter sun rises, never thinking that there might be others in the forest besides them and the innocent wildlife.

The debut feature of writer/director and horror film curator Matt Palmer with its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in the Best of British strand, Calibre is a spiralling descent of bad decisions from the moment the pair arrive at their destination, mistakes made and their repercussions as Marcus desperately tries to protect himself and his best friend in an indefensible situation because “the alternatives are unthinkable.”

Palmer capturing the whole process and what it does to the men as they attempt to cover their tracks and try to avoid drawing attention to themselves, Vaughn is living and breathing a nightmare as the plan to quietly slip town is derailed and they are pressed to put in an appearance at the Solstice festival, obliged to mingle with the very people they wish to avoid.

Filmed in the magnificent forests of Dumfries and Galloway, Calibre is carried by the raw performances of the ensemble cast, in particular Lowden, desperately looking for the right thing to do in a no-win situation already lost, McCann, too quick to reach for a drink, a gun, a shovel and a quick solution, and Curran, trying to keep the village from deteriorating into a mindless hunt through the forest at night looking for revenge.

While perhaps neither particularly original or unique, Palmer is not attempting to reinvent the genre and his debut is a solid and tense if bleak thriller which is less about the weapons carried than about the calibre of the men who carry them where every action follows inevitably from the first shot fired as city financier Marcus comes to realise the greatest debts can only be repaid in blood.

Calibre will be streaming on Netflix from Friday 29th June

The Edinburgh International Film Festival returns from Wednesday 19th to Sunday 30th June 2019



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