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In an outback town, Jay Swan, an Indigenous cowboy detective, returns home to solve the murder of a teenage Indigenous girl whose body is found under the highway trucking route out of town. Jay is alienated from both the white-dominated police force and the Indigenous community, including his teenage daughter, whom he discovers is connected to the murdered girl. Starring Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, and Tasma Walton, MYSTERY ROAD is a gripping murder mystery with a cultural perspective. Written by
Much of this film is shot in the small Australian town of Winton. Mystery Road held its first screening there. Some of iconic Australian film, Crocodile Dundee, was shot there (The Walkabout Creek Pub Scene). See more »
When the murdered indigenous girl is found in the pipe, she is sitting up with a gap behind her spine so that her weight is on her hips and her head against the pipe. She would have been slumped, but she was maintaining a posture impossible in a corpse. See more »
I must say that I am fascinated by the Australian outback, so this movie immediately had my attention. There have been many good Australian films to come out in recent years(The Proposition, Animal Kingdom, and Snowtown come to mind) and Mystery Road is another quality film to add to that list. With some unbelievable cinematography and good to very good acting throughout, Mystery Road was an inherently different take on the mystery genre that I quite enjoyed.
The overall tone of Mystery Road is what sets it apart from other movies of similar type. From the camera shots all the way down to the dialogue, everything is depicted with realism. There is a real awkwardness to the conversations between characters in this movie, almost like you would see in real life. While obviously still scripted, the way Ivan Sen went about depicting these scenes made for a unique perspective. From cinematographic standpoint, this film is stunning. Utilizing both top down angles of the town and low-angled sunset shots, Sen really brought the outback to life quite beautifully. This film really reminds me of the Coen Brother's No Country for Old Men, both in tone and the way the scenes were shot. Also like No Country for Old Men, Mystery Road features a soundtrack nearly devoid of music. This adds a somber, gritty feel to the already stoic nature Mystery Road portrays.
The acting in this movie is pretty fantastic throughout. Some of the supporting characters weren't as convincing, but they played a rather minor role in the overall scheme of things. This movie focuses heavily on the main character, and rightfully so, as he's a total bad-ass. You can read the synopsis above so I won't waste time here. I must say, however, that Jay Swan(played by Aaron Pedersen) is pretty enjoyable to follow as he attempts to unravel the mystery of a dead girl in his hometown. Mystery Road shines a spotlight on race relations in Australia as well, and with Jay being an aboriginal detective, he faces a lot of adversity throughout the film. It is interesting to see this as an American, since we are not often exposed to such things that happen in Australia. There always seems to be a layer of tension below the courtesy between Jay and his fellow townsmen, either due to him being an aboriginal himself or because he is a detective.
Now to the negatives, which there are a few. First, this movie starts out quite slow. I almost gave up on it as I fell asleep twice in the first 40 minutes. Had it not been for the fantastic shots of the outback and a few intriguing individuals, I may not have made it through. Things begin to pick up around the halfway mark but this will most definitely turn some people off. There are also a few plot holes, but I won't give them away as they may ruin some of the ending. Many of the characters are sadly under-developed as well, which detracts from the overall intrigue of some very interesting individuals. While Hugo Weaving was quite good and his character interesting, he role was particularly undeveloped in my humble opinion. Instead, Sen decided to focus more on Jay, which is OK for the most part, but it would have been nice to see some other characters get more screen time.
Overall, this movie offers some fantastic shots of the rural outback of Australia with an interesting plot to boot. Things do start off slow but it also, quite literally, ends with a bang. This ending is not one to miss, and has one of the most impressive gun battles I have seen perhaps ever. If you are a fan of gritty mystery movies, definitely check out Mystery Road.
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