February 4, 2019 The Isle (Movie Review)
The siren’s song heralds death. Beware those who fall under her spell, for you may end up the latest victim of The Isle. This beautifully authored blend of Historical Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror arrives to nine select AMC theaters on Friday, February 8, 2019, thanks to Great Point Media and Brainstorm Media.
In 1846, aboard a merchant ship headed to New York, three sailors — Captain Oliver Gosling (Alex Hassell: Two Down 2015, Suburbicon 2017) along with crew members Jim Bickley (Graham Butler: Penny Dreadful series, Two Down 2015) and Cailean Ferris (Fisayo Akinade: The Girl with All the Gifts 2016, The Works short 2016) — find themselves tossed into unforgiving waters, forced into a slowly sinking rowboat with no land in sight. That is, until the fog clears and they spot a small island looming up from the sea.
Almost immediately upon their arrival on shore, the trio are welcomed by local Finegal MacLeod (Dickon Tyrrell: Coronation Street series, Law & Order: UK series), who guides them to his small cottage and provides them with warmth and nourishment. Soon, however, he introduces them to Douglas Innis (Conleth Hill: Whatever Works 2009, Game of Thrones series) and his wife Lanthe (Tori Butler-Hart: Keeping Rosy 2014, Two Down 2015), who have a larger home and can better accommodate these new arrivals to the island. Along the way, they also encounter the fourth occupant of the small island, Korrigan MacLeod (Alix Wilton Regan: The Wife 2017, The Brave series), whose eccentric behavior is quickly dismissed as madness.
Before they can even manage to spend one evening on the island, the three shipwrecked sailors will immediately deduce that there is something very odd happening around them. Warned to stay inside and not to explore the landscape, and with Finegal growing ever evasive in answering their questions, they will turn toward a battered old journal for help in solving the mystery of this isolated place.
Is this isle cursed by a mythical creature born of Greek mythology, is it haunted by nameless spirits, or is it merely a place doomed by its perilous geography? Clocking in at 95 minutes, The Isle was directed by Matthew Butler-Hart (Miss in Her Teens 2014, Two Down 2015) and was co-written with his wife, Tori Butler-Hart, who also stars in the film. It also features Emma King (Two Down 2015, The Vanishing 2018) as Lorna, Joe Bannister (National Theatre Live: As You Like It 2016, Howard’s End mini-series) as Jacob MacLeod, and Ben Lee (Two Down 2015, Holmes & Watson 2018) as Billy Innis.
The Isle is a magnificently well-done film that looks like a dream. Its cinematography by Pete Wallington (The Symmetry of Love 2010, Solitary 2015) is so exquisitely done that you will actually feel like you can reach out and scrape your fingers across the peeling paint on the rowboat or press a cheek to the island’s copious deposits of moss. This all works in gorgeous synchronicity to pay a lovely visual homage to the striking scenery of Scotland, where the film was shot on location. Complete this marvelous package with a wonderfully evocative, Gaelic folk-dusted score from composer Tom Kane (Surviving Evil 2009, Miss in Her Teens 2014), and you have a film that looks and sounds magical.
This, of course, would mean nothing if not for its original story and superb cast, who are all exceptional in their roles. Akinade’s Ferris is fully likable, a soft-spoken and pensive man, while his counterpart, Butler’s Bickley, offers a slightly more outspoken personality. Together, they complement Hassell’s Gosling remarkably well, creating a believable team who have lived aboard a ship together, nearly died alongside one another, and now intuitively understand the nuances of one another’s personalities.
Tyrrell’s Finegal is the catalyst for the mystery that permeates the plot, a man who is initially welcoming and yet stern and evasive with answers. Tyrrell perfectly portrays the conflicted sides to his character’s personality, and oozes a sense of the stoicism necessary to survive in such a dramatically insular community. Similar is Hill’s Douglas, who never quite extends a welcome to the strangers.
In this film, however, it is the ladies — Butler-Hart’s Lanthe and Regan’s Korrigan — who provide and embody much of the haunting mystery and fantastical mood throughout. Each of these leading women are given characters that are not entirely fully developed, but they commit and create an atmosphere that is beautifully Gothic and wonderfully bespelling. Somewhere between mermaids and madness, Butler-Hart and Regan shine in their poetically elegant and delicately poised performances.
For those that love a haunting, beautifully wrought film, one that sets a mood such as 2015’s The VVitch: A New-England Folktale or, more recently, 2017’s The Lodgers, The Isle is a somber Gothic Horror piece that dances between fairy tale and Historical Fiction. Artfully authored and wonderfully performed, The Isle swims through some remarkably unique territory to create a tale that is nothing short of filmic literature. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give The Isle 4.5 of 5 stars.