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
A detective from a small outback settlement investigates the murder of an Aboriginal girl whose body has been found in a drain under the highway in the outskirts of town. His investigations soon reveal many dark secrets that underpin the town.
A couple of things in particular make this film really successful. Firstly, it has a compelling and deliberately developed mystery plot-line that slowly reveals its secrets; secondly, its Queensland outback location is wonderfully used to add atmosphere and depth. The Australian outback is really a very cinematic landscape, its sheer expanse and seeming endlessness can look great in a widescreen frame and the cinematography in Mystery Road shows again why. The shots of the landscape are often very beautiful. This contrasts quite jarringly with the small country town, which is entirely functional, with no beauty. We really feel the heat as well. This leads to a slowed down pace and a laid-back feel, very much in keeping with Australian life in general. This extends to the slow and deliberate way that the story-line unfolds before us.
The film looks at a few social issues that underpin the mystery story-line such as race relations, prostitution, police corruption and drug abuse. By the end, it would only be fair to say that all of the questions posed by the mystery have not been neatly answered. If anything, this works in the film's favour though as it makes you ponder events even more afterwards. What also helps is that the acting by the entire cast is very good. From the smallest support roles to the lead actors, everyone is excellent. Aaron Pederson in the lead role is particularly impressive. His measured and quiet persona is just the right tone and in keeping with the overall authenticity of proceedings. This is a film almost solely concerned with mystery mechanics at the expense of thriller elements. This, however, changes at the end where we are treated to one of the best shootouts you will see in any film. In keeping with the rest of the movie, this is a gun fight that retains its realism. It's because of this it's so interesting. It's messy and far removed from typical action movie shootouts; consequently it's far more effective. Of especial note are the long distance duels, where the delay between shots are so unusual and add considerable tension. It's an inspired ending to a very good Australian film.
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