Thandi Newton and Cillian Murphy in Retreat.
Thandi Newton and Cillian Murphy in Retreat.

Retreat, starring Cillian Murphy, makes the most of its low budget

Director: Carl Tibbetts
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell

Just like the old football cliche, Retreat is a story of two halves. It starts out as a relationship-breakdown drama and just as the boredom factor sets in, the tale makes a surprising and intriguing lurch into science-fiction territory.

Sympathetic Martin (Murphy) is taking his unhappy wife Kate (Newton) on holiday in an effort to reignite their failing marriage. The deserted Scottish island of Blackholme is where they once had a perfect holiday in 2002.

While such seclusion was great when their love was young, now the place seems designed to echo pregnant pauses. Mobile phones don't work either (the moment where the signal is lost has fast become a horror movie cliche).

So it's almost a relief to the couple when they discover Jack (Bell) washed ashore with a bad head wound. Relief turns to fear when Jack spins them a yarn about the mainland having been decimated by a killer virus and that their only hope for survival is to stay in the island cottage.

Should they trust Jack? Is he mad? Well acted, this three-hander cranks up the suspense à la the 1989 boat thriller Dead Calm. The script from the director Carl Tibbetts and the co-writer Janice Hallett makes the most of the simple premise to keep the audience and the characters guessing throughout. It even has a surprising finale.

It's a great calling card, making the most of the low budget, but it's too cliche-ridden, especially at the start, and too reminiscent of other movies to truly surprise.

At Eternity’s Gate

Director: Julian Schnabel

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaacs, Mads Mikkelsen

Three stars

Company profile

Name: Back to Games and Boardgame Space

Started: Back to Games (2015); Boardgame Space (Mark Azzam became co-founder in 2017)

Founder: Back to Games (Mr Azzam); Boardgame Space (Mr Azzam and Feras Al Bastaki)

Based: Dubai and Abu Dhabi 

Industry: Back to Games (retail); Boardgame Space (wholesale and distribution) 

Funding: Back to Games: self-funded by Mr Azzam with Dh1.3 million; Mr Azzam invested Dh250,000 in Boardgame Space  

Growth: Back to Games: from 300 products in 2015 to 7,000 in 2019; Boardgame Space: from 34 games in 2017 to 3,500 in 2019

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