Calibre review: A dark, emotionally exhausting Netflix film that stuns you

A still from the movie. Photo: Netflix.
In the end it’s all about the choices that make or break a person. Or is it? 

When Vaughn (Jack Lowden), cradling his newborn child, stares chillingly at the camera for a few seconds, he must have been lost in the puzzle that begins during a nightmarish Highland deerstalking trip.

Writer-director Matt Palmer’s Calibre, now streaming on Netflix, dwells on the premise of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and transcends into a grim tale about the unfortunate choices Vaughn and his friend, Marcus (Martin McCann), make after a mind-numbing mishap. Their guilt, angst and helplessness are magnified against the backdrop of an economically stagnant Scottish countryside where the locals are the law of the land.
In its 1 hour 41-minute runtime, Calibre, this year’s best British feature at Edinburgh film festival, takes sharp turns through the woods dotted with tall, dark trees and the sombre village in the vicinity, often captured in brilliant low-light cinematography. 

Palmer’s debut feature tests the limits of humanity, friendship and cruelty, and shows two young men swept away by the currents of a series of cover-ups and their consequences that deny them the courage to face the truth.

But that was not how it was supposed to be. When city folks Vaughn and Marcus, nursing a big hangover after a night of drinking in the company of two women, ventured into the woods, little did they know that Palmer had made them the prey in a merciless script. 

The exploration of human minds in circumstances beyond control --- partly because of bad choices, partly owing to the strong flow of events --- makes Calibre an exhausting, yet thrilling, experience.  

Palmer teases the audience with a sudden jolt every now and then, including in the last scene where the stillness of Vaughn becomes a haunting image.

Scarred for a lifetime under the burden of guilt, Vaughn looks at the camera --- two seconds too many! --- as the audience expects another crescendo, or maybe an implosion. But this time the camera fades out in the dark.

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