Is Calibre (2018) a Hidden Gem in the Abyss?
"Everything I did, I did to protect you." When I hear those words in a movie, I'm usually watching a character defend a terrible set of choices. A conversation like this is usually the tip of the iceberg. For whatever has taken place, including the lies and the steps taken to cover them up are forcefully coming to the surface.
This dark and frightening thriller is about two friends, Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann), who take a weekend hunting trip in Scotland. When the hunting trip takes a terrible turn, the friends have a choice to make: do what they know is right and face the consequences or find a way to bury it. You can probably guess which choice they make.
Although this is a joint-venture with Netflix, you probably haven't seen this film in your feed. It has an independent film feel, which I've come to appreciate more and more. The acting is superb and the Scotland landscape matches the tone of the filming: bleak and haunting.
But, I should warn you this movie is rated TV-MA for a reason: there's lots of foul language and sexual situations (but no nudity). It's an intense film to say the least. Midway through, Megan (my wife) said she was done.
I thought about following her, but I chose to finish the movie, and I'm glad that I did.
You could say the movie's about a number of things, but I see it as about choices . . . and their consequences. When a frightful decision is made, we often focus in on that particular decision: Why did I do that?! But it's easy to forget about the smaller, seemingly-inconsequential choices that led up to it.
The night before Vaughn and Marcus went hunting they went out on the town. They had an evening that seemed pretty normal to them, doing things they've probably done many times before. But in this instance, the conditions were just right so that the pressure applied to the snowball on the mountain gave it just the push it need to start rolling. By the end of the film, choice after choice is made, and we have an avalanche.
Speaking of the end of the film, I wasn't sure how it would wrap up both in terms of plot and worldview. There were enough twists in the story to keep me glued and the worldview of the film reminded me of the Old Testament. At one point, a character says, "This can only be paid in blood." My mind raced to the book of Exodus and Hebrews, and of course, the Gospels.
I'm not sure I'd called this film a gem, but it stands out among many of the films on Netflix or the streaming services. It drags you into the muck, but not needlessly. While some films want us to dance and celebrate the darkness in its varied forms, this one doesn't. It puts us in the heart and mind of one character, and together we journey into the abyss. We watch him stagger under the weight of his conscience and watch as his choices grow with momentum until the moral gravity is staggering.
Like with the Old Testament, especially the Historical Books, there's the temptation to despair at the end of this film . . . unless we pause and ask, How does the arrival of the Sacrificial Lamb speak to this? You can be confident that He does.
This film is not for children, but if you want a film with substance, as grim as it may be, give it a try. When you're finished, let's talk about it.
Dane Bundy is President of Stage & Story and Director of Fine Arts at Regents School of Austin, a classical Christian school in Austin, TX.