Damn it, this makes the ninth movie getting released this week! Okay, technically eighth, but that’s because I missed out on one movie last week which is getting a release closer to where I live. Woohoo!
Anyway, no seque. Saw this trailer once or twice, knew it was coming out, didn’t know when, here it is.
The story looks like it’s about a man who has field hands who are aboriginal, but aren’t slaves. They’re his hired help and he treats them like equals. But he’s visited by a more racist gentleman who kidnaps a kid and, presumably the father, kills that kidnapper and goes on the run, tracked down by the law.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Hamilton Morris, making his feature film debut, Sam Neill (PETER RABBIT , TOMMY’S HONOUR , HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE , and the upcoming RIDE LIKE A GIRL ), Bryan Brown (PETER RABBIT, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS , and GODS OF EGYPT ), and Ewen Leslie (PETER RABBIT, and upcoming films THE NIGHTINGALE ).
Now for the crew. The director and co-cinematographer is Warwick Thornton, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are Steven McGregor (stuff I’ve never heard of) and David Tranter (feature film debut). This film has no score, therefore no composer. Thornton’s co-cinematographer is Dylan River, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, the editor is Nick Meyers, known for stuff I’ve never heard of.
Overall, this looks like it could be pretty good. Sam Neill is always a reliable talent, so long as he has plenty of screen time. If that’s the case, I’ll like this movie fine.
This is my honest opinion of: SWEET COUNTRY
Set in Australia’s Northern Territory, circa the 1929. Fred Smith (Sam Neill) is a honest, god-fearing man whose farm is tended to by his Aboriginal friend Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) and his family. When an embittered war veteran named Harry March (Ewen Leslie) seeks aid for his own farm, Sam is hired on, resulting in mild mistreatment at first, eventually ending with Sam’s wife, Lizzie (Natassia Gorey Furber), getting raped, but Sam isn’t told. In a neighboring farm, Harry’s friend Mick Kennedy (Thomas M. Wright), has a slave boy named Philomac (twins Trevon and Tremayne Doolan) escape and hides out on Fred’s land without his knowledge, and while he’s out. Only Sam keeps an eye on the property as Harry furiously demands the release of Philomac, breaks into Fred’s home, resulting in Sam defending himself by shooting and killing Harry. As the local authorities are notified, lead by Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown), Sam and Lizzie go on the run.
Oh yeah, this was a pretty good movie. A little paint by numbers with some predictability at times, but some solid filmmaking.
For a feature film debut, Morris is absolutely captivating in his performance. If this is the genuine aborigines language, then it’s damn cool. As an uncultured swine, I had no idea that Australia had multiple accents, but I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. It’s just nothing that I really thought about. Still, his performance is perfectly nuanced and full of subtle vengeance, regret, fear, all rolled into one and sometimes all in the same scene. Sam Neill and pretty much the rest of the cast does incredibly well. What I really like is how the aborigines are portrayed. You have the free men, like Sam and his family, but you also have the happy-in-servitude ones like Archie (Gibson John), who have settled almost disturbingly too well into their roles as the subservient to their white bosses, and Archie doesn’t always treat his own people with respect. Also, I know nothing about Australia’s history, so to boot that this film is educational, but still hauntingly familiar and interesting, it’s fantastic how it talks about it in a way that is integral to the story, and not too hammered in. Setting and cinematography is great, especially when the movie gets to that endless-looking white desert flatland, whatever that was called. The way that it’s filmed, you feel that unspeakable heat and I guarantee you, if you have a cup of water next to you, you’ll hork it down in a desperate attempt to fight off the dehydration you likely don’t actually have. It’s beautifully terrifying how well-shot this movie is.
I do have a few complaints though. While the aborigines are portrayed as complex characters, the white characters are a little too one-dimensional. Sure, Fred is a likable character because he doesn’t care about Sam’s skin color, and Judge Taylor (Matt Day) is fair in his court scene, but everyone else with light skin is an asshole. They’re bigoted, racist, and blood-thirsty. Like… every single one of them. But none of them have any true depth to them. They’re standard good guys and standard assholes. I know movies probably shouldn’t have racists be portrayed in sympathetic lights, but they are a product of the times and I have to believe that racists of this nature aren’t terrible people twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to every single person they come across. I don’t know, the flatness of their characters was a little distracting at times. The movie almost gave depth to Sgt. Fletcher, but that got ruined horribly later to the point where I didn’t really know why they teased that he was going through an arc.
Overall, there’s a lot more that I could say about this movie, but I’m pretty behind in my reviews from this week alone, both in terms of writing and watching. Take it from me, though, this is worth a watch. It’s no movie of the year, but it’s good for what it is. I say check it out if you see it in your local cinemas. I don’t see myself seeing this twice, or owning it on Blu-Ray, but it’s good to see once. If this movie were on trial, its final verdict would be: a good movie. Some flaws, but good.
My honest rating for SWEET COUNTRY: 4/5
Next week’s reviews:
- BIG FISH & BEGONIA
- YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
- SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO
- TRUTH OR DARE
- THE RIDER