Cillian Murphy has seen his fair share of end-of-the-world experiences. He came out of a coma mid-zombie apocalypse in “28 Days Later,” and set out on a doomed journey to reignite the dying sun in “Sunshine.”
While those movies take place on a much bigger scale, Murphy’s latest effort, “Retreat,” sees the actor trying to survive in a scaled-back version of the end of days.
“Retreat” takes place in a single location, a cottage on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, and the cast only features four total characters. Most of the plot follows just three of them: Martin, played by Murphy, Thandie Newton as his wife, Kate, and Jamie Bell as Jack, a wounded stranger in military garb who arrives on the island under mysterious circumstances. Jack claims that a virus has wiped out a large portion of Earth’s population and that to survive the trio must barricade themselves in the cottage and avoid contact with anyone.
The film plays out in 90 minutes of intense suspense and suspicion. Murphy is tasked with making the outlandish premise something believable, relatable and all the more frightening. In an exclusive interview, the actor told MTV News that Martin is “the audience’s eyes in many ways,” the one who has to decide what to do about Jack and how to protect his wife.
“For me, it’s always about what makes it attractive to an audience, I think when they watch it they ask, ’What the hell would I do in that situation? How would I react? How would my husband react? How would my wife reaction?'” he said.
Seeing Murphy in such a straight, grounded role may feel unfamiliar to American audiences, who are used to seeing the actor as more outlandish characters like the Scarecrow in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Jackson Rippner in “Red Eye,” but Murphy said he prefers the smaller, more normal roles.
“I’ve played characters that are more of a great distance from me in terms of perhaps transvestites or astronauts or whatever the hell you might want to say,” Murphy said. “But I’ve also played characters that are one step away from you as a person. In many ways that’s more difficult to convey convincingly because there’s less of a distance to run to.”
Another noteworthy aspect of “Retreat” is the dark performance by Jamie Bell. Murphy said that there is a reason that Bell strikes such a nerve.
“I think what’s amazing about Jaime’s character is that he’s frightening but he’s frightening because he’s charismatic,” said the actor. “He’s frightening because you’re kind of attracted to him.”
“Retreat” hits select theaters on October 21st.
Warning: the following clip is NSFW due to graphic language.