The Hide is an interesting, little slow-burn thriller. It takes the engaging premise of an intimate stage play and successfully translates it to an increasingly claustrophobic confessional.
The film features only two characters because that is all the economy of the tale requires. Roy Tunt (Alex MacQueen) is a fastidious man with a singular passion in life: bird watching. He often holes up in tiny shacks known as hides and observes his feathered friends, hoping to catch a glimpse of certain elusive species. It is a fairly solitary existence, until the day that David John (Phillip Campbell) steps into his hide. Their first meeting is truly awkward as David shows up at Roy's door unannounced expecting shelter from the elements. David's manner is vaguely menacing and Roy seems unsure as to how best to handle the situation. So he lets David in.
This marks the beginning of the game that will soon consume both men. It starts off innocently enough as they try to feel each other out. Although they clearly have very different backgrounds, they slowly bond over sandwiches and inane chit chat. Roy educates David about the intricacies of bird calls while David tells uncouth jokes about nuns that offend Roy's delicate sensibilities. Soon conversation turns to love and loss as Roy talks about his philandering ex-wife, garnering much sympathy from David in the process. Just as both men find a common understanding, Roy's radio crackles to life and informs him of a suspicious white male that the cops are in pursuit of. Wouldn't you know it? David is white, male and not that long ago seemed awfully suspicious.
I don't want to spoil any of the particulars of the film's climax so I will proceed with maddening ambiguity. Most viewers will see the 'big twist' coming from a mile away. It is so obvious that I'm not sure director Marek Losey and writer Tim Whitnall intend for us to perceive it as a revelation at all. They get a lot more mileage out of shocking us with the details of the 'how' and the 'why' rather than making a grand flourish with the 'who' of it all. There is a delicious aspect of Grand Guignol which creeps into the unassuming environs of this low-key tale that is audacious and heartily welcome. Writer Whitnall has done an impressive job of adapting his own stage play into a tight little exercise in slow-mounting tension. For his part, director Losey keeps the pace up and has the good sense to let MacQueen and Campbell's performances steer the show.
For a film featuring only two characters, even one mediocre performance would sink the entire affair. Fortunately both MacQueen and Campbell are up to the task. Campbell sells the introverted nature of David's character while MacQueen has an absolute ball embodying the weirdness that is Roy Tunt. MacQueen really gets under the character's skin which is no surprise considering he got to portray Roy in the stage play as well. Roy is an obsessive, nebbishy guy but MacQueen lends him such an off-kilter energy that even a mundane discussion of power tools or specific bird calls is utterly captivating. His work alongside Campbell's is proof that sometimes character pyrotechnics are the only special effects required by a film.