Well-acted and paced, while displaying the beauty of the Scottish countryside, Sacrifice is a solid, albeit not entirely original, thriller that harkens upon many tropes familiar to the genre.
Films in the horror and thriller genres are extremely difficult to nail properly. On one hand, there are familiar blueprints to be followed that outline how to properly execute even just a satisfactory film. On the other, there is a chance to take risks and not fall into the same tendencies where many other movies have tried, and many times failed, to be unique. More often than not, the result is somewhere in between. The results for Sacrifice lie somewhere in between.
In many ways, Sacrifice falls in line with the latter category of films in borrowing many tropes from the history of thrillers; a foreign location, mysterious deaths, and a history rooted in folklore, to name a few. Writer and Director Peter A. Dowling crafts a film that feels very familiar but has its own unique qualities that separate it from many other similar projects. Veteran Australian actress Radha Mitchell makes yet another appearance in a smaller scale suspense film in a genre she has proven herself to be especially capable in. Mitchell’s Dr. Tora Hamilton is the primary protagonist of the film; a professional woman who longs for a family but has been unable to conceive with her husband Duncan Guthrie. Mitchell, to her credit, does very well with the material given to her, although added depth to her character would have been very welcome. As the audience’s portal to the events of the film, a deeper established connection, and understanding to Mitchell’s Hamilton as opposed to merely being presented a character with little comprehensible motivation, would have been very welcome. British television star Rupert Graves co-stars as the aforementioned Duncan and also does well with his material in a surprisingly more fleshed out role despite receiving far less screen time than Mitchell. The remainder of the cast smartly adds additional layers to the story, with Joanne Crawford’s Sergeant Dana Tulloch playing a vital role at many points, but most of the side characters blend in rather than standing out and making a lasting impact.
Dowling does a solid job directing and capturing the proper tension and mystery in Sacrifice; utilizing solid atmosphere, dimly lit environments, and the added intrigue of a woman being in a land she is unfamiliar with in exploring many of the common elements of thrillers but keeps the film fairly original. Delving into Scottish mythology presents an intriguing backdrop to the crux of the conflict, but the film surprisingly does not spend enough time on the mythology to make it as impactful as it could have been. Dowling teases the audience with the concept that makes up part of the beating heart of the story but doesn’t follow through with the appropriate amount of detail to drive home the full weight of what is at stake for the characters, the greater story, and the mythology behind it all. What Dowling does use is effective at points, but it feels short changed instead of brought to its full potential for maximum effect on the audience.
In spite of its narrative flaws, Sacrifice is a fairly cut and dry thriller; Dowling, Mitchell, and Graves do not reinvent the wheel, but they weren’t asked to either. There are moments in the film that are shot and acted very well, and the movie itself is quite watchable. With all of the flops and disjointed products put out in Hollywood, most filmmakers and studios would be happy to have that result. No one will mistake Sacrifice for being a trailblazer of the genre, as it follows a myriad of cliches and its flaws are glaring, but it is a perfectly solid, standalone film that is well worth a watch if your expectations are tempered.
Sacrifice is written and directed by Peter A. Dowling and stars Radha Mitchell, Rupert Graves, Ian McElhinney, David Robb, and Joanne Crawford.
Sacrifice will open Fridya, April 29th in New York at IFC Center, May 6th in Los Angeles at The Arena Theater. The film will be available On Demand and on digital platforms starting April 29th.
The trailer can be viewed below.