(On Cable TV, April 2013) As far as intimate thrillers go, it’s hard to be purer in intent than Retreat: It features a mere handful of characters, and setting whose isolation becomes a crucial portion of the plot. It begins when a married couple seek an escape from their troubles by spending a week on a deserted island, alone on an empty estate. They are surprised by a solider claiming that a plague has swept through the globe in their absence, and that they must protect themselves against a possible intrusion. Things get more complicated afterward, but no less tense as the married couple seems woefully unprepared to deal with their dangerous new companion. Thandie Newton and Cillian Murphy headline the small cast: much of the film’s tension relies on the interactions between three characters. The spatial restraint is such that one could easily imagine this story done as a theater piece. The cold and damp setting works to the film’s claustrophobic advantage, and the script is occasionally ingenious in how it gradually ratchets up the tension without necessarily taking the obvious path. (There’s a notable absence of sexual tension once that question is quickly defused, for instance) The conclusion may be a bit too nihilistic, but it does feature a nice reversal of expectations. While Retreat may not be a likable film in the most conventional sense of the word, it is an interesting exercise in suspense, perhaps most effective as an antidote to a steady diet of higher-budgeted overblown thrillers.