The Last Wave (1977) Poster

(1977)

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Have lived alone in a cave on high ground, since the film's release!f
uds330 October 2001
"Pretentious" seems a popular word amongst reviewers of this thought-provoking film. HOW I wonder would "they" have made it, given the opportunity? I am saved from further contemplation along these lines by the fact that Peter Weir made it.....and rather well, I hasten to add.

A worthy successor to PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK in as much as the viewer is left with his or her own interpretation of what they have just seen. Events occuring in an everyday environment but where the line between fantasy and reality is so blurred, no lens can be found to bring up a sharp focus. It is a disturbing film which highlights and pays homage to the Aboriginal dreamtime.

Chamberlain, in one of his best roles (made even better when you reminisce about the celluloid embarrassments BELLS, KING SOLOMON'S MINES and NIGHT OF THE HUNTER) plays a hot-shot Australian attorney (complete with DR KILDARE accent) who is called upon to defend a small group of Tribal Aborigines on what appears to be an "open and shut case" murder charge. Initially he finds his clients anything but co-operative and seemingly disinterested by the threat of the white man's legal system. Aspects of the case begin to disturb him and he is drawn into a world of ancient beliefs, symbolic half-lives, a very dimension that causes him to question his own comfortable existence and purpose. Central to his dreams is one of the Defendants (brilliantly played by Australian actor David Gulpilil) who appears existentially, perhaps a disembodied spirit (?), holding out to him a sacred stone with ancient cabalistic markings. He learns that the aboriginal man who was killed was the victim of tribal law and that he must not, cannot, intervene.

The nightmare spills over into real-time...black rain, (we have already witnessed hailstones crashing into a tiny outback school from cloudless skies!) water prophetically leaking through his roof and cascading down the stairs. Visions of a great flood. He becomes obssessed with seeking the truth, not only of what is going on around him, but who he is? The scene where he confronts the Head Tribal Elder in his inner city squat is totally chilling. The viewer's own close and comfortable existence is challenged and put up for re-evaluation here.

Eventually and too late of course, he stumbles across the truth. But IS it? Has he been played for a fool? Has the audience? Much was made at the time of the film's release, that the final scenes were a total cop-out. I even thought as much myself at the opening night. Amazing what a almost a quarter of a century's personal development and insight can do for you. Like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, this film needs to be seen at different stages of your life to appreciate what Peter Weir knew and was trying to say in 1977.
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9/10
The man who saw too much
Howard Schumann19 January 2004
Richard Chamberlain is David Burton, a tax lawyer living in Sydney, Australia who is drawn into a murder trial defending five Aboriginal men accused of murdering a fellow native in Peter Weir's apocalyptic 1977 thriller The Last Wave. Taking up where Picnic at Hanging Rock left off, the film goes deeper into exploring the unknown and, in the process, shows the gulf between two cultures who live side by side but lack understanding of each others culture and traditions. Weir shows how white society considers the native beliefs to be primitive superstitions and believes that since they are living in the cities and have been "domesticated", their tribal laws and culture no longer apply.

From the start, Burton is drawn deeper and deeper into a strange web of visions and symbols where the line between real time and "dream time" evaporates. Water plays an important symbolic role in the film from the opening sequence in which a sudden thunder and hailstorm interrupts a peaceful school recess to Burton's discovery that his bathtub is overflowing and water is pouring down his steps. As violent and unusual weather continue with episodes of black rain and mud falling from the sky, the contrast between the facile scientific explanations of the phenomenon and the intuitive understanding of the natives is made clear. Burton and his wife Annie (Olivia Hamnet) study books about the Aborigines and learn about the role of dreams in the tribal traditions. When he invites one of his clients Chris Lee (David Gulpilil) to his home for dinner, he is disturbed to find that he is the subject of an inquiry by Chris and his friend Charlie (Nadjiwarra Amagula), an enigmatic Aborigine sorcerer involved with the defendants. As Burton's investigation continues, his clients make his work difficult by refusing to disclose the true events surrounding the murder.

After Chris starts to appear in his dreams, Burton is convinced that the Aborigine was killed in a tribal ritual because "he saw too much", though Chris refuses to acknowledge this in court. Burton, becoming more and more troubled by a mystery he cannot unravel, says to his stepfather priest, "Why didn't you tell me there were mysteries?" This is a legitimate question but, according to the reverend, the Church answers all mysteries. Burton knows now that he must discover the truth for himself and enters the tribal underground caves. Though we do not know for certain what is real and what is a dream, he comes face to face with his deepest fears in a haunting climax that will leave you pondering its meaning into the wee hours of the morning.

In this period of history in which native Hopi and Mayan prophecies predict the "end of history" and the purification of man leading to the Fifth World, The Last Wave, though 25 years old, is still timely. The Aborigines are portrayed as a vibrant culture, not one completely subjugated by the white man, yet I am troubled by the gnawing feeling that we are looking in but not quite seeing. Weir has opened our eyes to the mystery that lies beyond our consensual view of reality, but he perpetuates the doom-orientation that sees possibility only in terms of fear, showing nature as a dark and uncontrollable power without a hint of the spiritual beauty that lives on both sides of time.
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One of my favorites for atmosphere
lauloi31 March 2002
I am a big fan of this film and may not be able to make a coherent case for it, especially after reading some of the lukewarm comments some of the viewers offer. I agree that some of the themes could have been developed better, and think that the ending smacks of a "Planet of the Apes" solution to a mystery, yet this film is superb for its relentless atmosphere of otherworldly possibility.

Perhaps I associate this film with the strangeness of the 1970's, when Pyramid Power, UFO cults, and interest in occult phenomena occupied much of popular culture. Weir plays on the apocalyptic feelings of many in that decade with his shots of mud falling from the skies and other phenomena. One of my all time favorite scenes is when Charlie the shaman visits the urbane upper-middle class household of Richard Chamberlain et al. and asks to see the family photo album. I still get chills up my spine thinking of that one.

An element that I enjoyed is the counter-intuitive idea that "there are no tribal aborigines" living in Australian cities...they are all assimilated into the European worldview. This opinion, asserted by the most prominent aborigine in the movie, is subverted bit by bit until the very structure of European logic (as represented by the lawyer Chamberlain) is completely undermined by the end of the movie. Another amazing touch is the juxtaposition of the aboriginal sacred cave complex and what the Europeans are using it for, and Chamberlains descent into all that darkness.

Don't try viewing this one on a commercial channel, it will make very little sense broken up in pieces. Rent it, suspend disbelief a little, and enjoy.
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8/10
Eerie thriller with unique Aussie slant.
jckruize17 April 2003
Peter Weir's first international success, THE LAST WAVE is an effective chiller with a fascinating back story based on Aboriginal myth. Richard Chamberlain is quite good as a defense lawyer whose life becomes increasingly unmoored from reality as he delves into a murder case involving Aboriginal tribal rivalries. David Gulpilil plays one of the suspects, who does his best to guide Chamberlain thru the realm of 'Dreamtime', an alternate reality/timeline central to native Australian history and tribal custom. Heavy on atmosphere, deliberately ambiguous in plotting, the film builds to an unsettling finale which is somewhat diminished by poor effects, probably due to budgetary limitations. Nevertheless an intriguing film whose overall impression of mystery and dread lurking just below the surface of what we perceive as 'reality' will stay with you.
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8/10
part of a wave of really good movies
Lee Eisenberg12 June 2005
"The Last Wave" is one of those movies that relies heavily on the mind. The title refers to the Aboriginal doomsday theory: there will be one last wave that wipes out everything.

David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) is a Sydney lawyer hired to defend some Aborigines accused of murder. Around this time, there has been unusually heavy rainfall in Australia. While defending the Aborigines, David learns the last wave theory, and begins to wonder whether it's just mythology.

The movie's last sequence is a metaphor for descending into the depths of one's mind. Peter Weir created a perplexing, but thought-provoking, movie. Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil (whom you may have seen in "Walkabout", "Crocodile Dundee" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence") provides an interesting supporting role as one of the defendants.

If you get a chance, watch the "making of" feature on the DVD. Peter Weir explains some of the film's undertones, some of which relate to Richard Chamberlain's background.
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10/10
Incredible!
ereinion22 September 2005
This supernatural Peter Weir thriller is truly one of the most haunting and fascinating movies ever seen. Richard Chamberlain does his best performance here as the Australian lawyer who defends a group of young Aborigins accused of murder. As he gets closer on the case, he discovers more about the main defendant, Chris, and not least about himself. Chris tells him that he is a Mulkurul, which appear to be a race of supernatural beings that lived in Australia thousands of years ago. At the same time, extraordinary high rainfall seems to confirm the Aboriginal prophecy of the coming of the LAST WAVE, the one that will drown the world.

The dream sequences and the supernatural effects enhance this movie and make it a spectacular experience. Olivia Hamnett and David Gulpilil are solid in the supporting roles, as well as the chap with the difficult name who plays Charlie, the old Aborigin who can turn into an owl. The climax and the ending don't disappoint, in contrast to many other supernatural thrillers who fall flat after a promising hour or so. However, this can not be called a pure thriller. It is a drama as well and talks about spirituality and spiritual identity in the modern world. A masterful work by Peter Weir, the master of visually stunning dramas.
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8/10
Stands the test of time.
Muldwych4 November 2007
'The Last Wave' is far more than the sum of its parts. It's not merely a disaster film, not simply an exploration into Australian Aboriginal spirituality, and certainly more than a simple court drama. Writer/Director Peter Weir manages to take these elements to the next level to produce a truly effective and thought-provoking film with the same eerie atmosphere he gave to 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' two years earlier, that you will continue to remember years later.

When lawyer David Burton (Chamberlain) is called to defend Chris Lee (Gulpilil) over the death of an Aboriginal for which he may or may not be directly responsible, he finds himself not merely struggling to get the truth from Lee, but making sense of what he hears when it does come. As with the Aboriginal belief that there are two worlds - the everyday and the Dreamtime, the truth exists on two completely different levels, with ramifications more disastrous than Burton could ever have imagined.

No doubt the reason why 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' is better remembered is because of its enduring mystery. We are led along the same path but forced to find answers for ourselves. In 'The Last Wave', we can piece everything together by the end of the film. However, even with all the information, we have to choose how much of it we want to believe, because the film takes us beyond the borders of our normal realities.

On the production side, Weir uses his budget to great effect, progressively building a sense of doom in everything from soft lighting, to heavy rain, to good use of sound. The incidental music is unobtrusive, never trying to be grandiose. Richard Chamberlain manages to convey the bafflement the audience would doubtless feel as he tries to unravel the mystery. David Gulpilil excellently portrays a man trapped between two worlds, wanting to do the right thing, but afraid because he already knows the ending.

Put all these things together, and you have a perfect example of why David Weir is a familiar name in cinema thirty years on. Strongly recommended.
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Gives new meaning to the word mystique.
lottatitles6 October 2002
I notice a lot of viewers are trying to 'understand' The Last Wave. Sometimes...understanding is 'the booby prize'. In an age of in-your-face special effects and fast action that negates thinkiing at all, this film is brilliant. Peter Weir is truly a remarkable film maker. He does something so few director's do anymore. He allows us to be involved with the story...to think for ouselves. Same as with Picnic At Hanging Rock, which I have to watch at least once a year, The Last Wave allows ME to think for myself.
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8/10
Subdued Supernatural Mystery
Eumenides_030 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Although I've long been a fan of Peter Weir, I hadn't watched any of his Australian movies until I watched The Last Wave. And it was a pleasant, unpredictable surprise.

Richard Chamberlain plays David, a lawyer invited to defend five aborigines charged with murdering another Aborigine. For David's peers it's a clear case of drunken disorder and they think they should plead guilty and serve a quick sentence. But David believes there's a mystery underneath the murder, linked to tribal rituals. As his investigation proceeds he learns not only things about his clients but about himself too.

To reveal more would be to spoil one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. I can only say that this movie goes in directions that no one will be expecting.

There are many elements that make this a fascinating movie: Chamberlain's acting, for instance; but also the performances by David Gulpilil, who plays a young aborigine who introduces David into tribal mysteries; and Nandjiwarra Amagula, who plays an old aborigine who's a spiritual guide. The relationships between these three characters make the heart of the movie.

But there's also the way Weir suggests the supernatural in the movie. David has dreams that warn him of the future. Australia is undergoing awful weather, with storms, hail falling and even a mysterious black rain that may be nothing more than pollution. But it's also related to the case David is defending. How it's related is one of the great revelations of the movie. Out of little events Weir manages to create an atmosphere of dread and oppression, suggesting future horrors without really showing anything.

Charles Wain's score is fantastic, especially the use of the didgeridoo. The photography is also quite good. Russell Boyd, Weir's longtime DP who won an Oscar in 2004 for Master and Commander, depicts a dark, creepy world full of mystery.

I also find it remarkable that for a movie centered on aborigines, it doesn't turn into an indictment against white culture or into a sappy celebration of the their traditions, like Dances With Wolves or The Last Samurai. This movie is too clever to be that simplistic.

Sometimes it can be frustrating, and it may upset viewers who expect to finish a movie with everything making sense; but for those who don't mind some strangeness or ambiguity, The Last Wave is a great movie to watch.
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Culture Shock or nightmare comes true
curator_1341019 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Peter Weir's early films were devoted to uniquely Australian themes which he tried to make universal. Without a clear understanding of the aboriginal culture some of the strange things which happen in this film, fall truly into the horror genre a la Steven King,and that is unfortunate. A wealthy Australian tax lawyer, born in South America, with a uniquely American accent (played very well by Richard Chamberlain), watches as his world slowly falls apart.

His day of reckoning begins when he has to defend six aboriginal defendants accused of killing another man after a disagreement in a bar. Not normally responsible for court trails, Chamberlain fights court, his own counsel (in Aussie trials there are usually two lawyers involved in the defense) and even his family, Chamberlain's dreams, the unnatural weather and the eventual discovery of tribal secrets the men tried to protect...leads Chamberlain to his eventual downfall...

He is to the tribe, a bridge, a man from the East....(across the water from Sydney who can and does live in the dream world these aboriginals believe in...) Chamberlain's dreams came true as a child...and now he sees time and time again....Sydney.. under water....

There is here a clash of cultures....As one lawyer mentions..we all but obliterated the Aboriginal presence in the city...there are no tribes left...and in the end...Weir sides with the native...earlier culture...in a sense trying to revive it ...by filming an Aboriginal myth come to life....and so at least in the dream world....Chamberlain's life ends....when the last wave...a huge tidal wave crashes against the shore....With that perhaps as a symbol.. the culture of these few tribesmen and those who understand them...begins and ends with the fate of Chamberlain...

I liked the film....but its not an easy one to understand...nor is it Weir's best effort....Gallipoli, Witness and the Trueman Show are all better and deal with the theme of mystic communication so much better.. But this film was an Australian Right of passage and a mourning of the loss of Aboriginal culture...well acted and superbly written. 8 of 10
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10/10
Magic in practice
Mercury-413 February 2004
While to most people watching the movie, this will be of little interest, but out of the many hundreds of movies dealing with magic and the occult in one form or another, this one is probably the best in many ways.

From The Golem to The Craft the subject seems to be of endless interest to the movie industry. The majority of movies which touch on it in any way do so childishly (for example "Witchboard", a true piece of utter garbage in every way) either taking the transcendental elements as cheap excuses for cheesy special effects or cardboard cutout villians (cf "Warlock"). More frequently the subject comes up in an hysterical religious context (in the various Revelations-oriented movies, the antichrist is inevitably an advocate of some kind of new-age style practice). Rarely, a movie seems to show at least some passing experience with magic as it is practiced in real life, but the presentation of the occult in such movies can at best be described as allegorical and not literal, or symbolic, or ... just not quite right.

I watched this movie again after many years tonight. I had seen it before on VHS; it is a dark, moody piece, and after watching it on DVD, I would say if you have any intention to watch this movie, watch it on DVD, don't watch it on VHS.

The darkness and moodiness are overpowering in VHS but in DVD the movie takes on a very different tone. I think Weir pushed the dark aspects intentionally for style, but when the movie is converted to the lower color medium of VHS this goes over the edge. DVD brings the movie to life again and I saw it differently.

Anyway, seeing it as if for the first time, I realized that the treatment of magic is extremely good in this movie. It's difficult to go into all the reasons why, I don't care to take the time to do so.

For anybody who's curious, anyway, if you want to see what it is like in real life, this movie is just very right on countless levels.

And for anybody who isn't, you really wasted a lot of time reading to this point.
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8/10
" We step into the world of darkness, through the Dream door "
thinker169114 February 2010
Across the great divide which we call understanding, there is still much we do not know about that which was explained by the early tribal Elders. In every instance, there is much concerning the dangers of knowing too much. Conversely, there are those who warn us of not preparing for what they warn is the 'End Time.' In this movie called " The Last Wave " an aboriginal native is murdered for no apparent reason. When those responsible are arrested, they remain silent less they disturb the order of things. David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) plays the Defense Attorney assigned to defend the accused. Although haunted by prophetic images from his own childhood and warned by modern signs given to him by an sympathetic Aboriginal named Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), Burton proceeds to defend the infraction as Tribal Law and therefore not subject to standard justice. The movie is fraught with puzzling, dark foreboding images of apocalyptic end world disasters and warns of a future island tsunami and doom. Black drama and deep rituals are what gives this film it's frightening allure and therefore is not for the faint-hearted, in fact the simplest haunting apparitions can last for years in the nightmares of innocent movie goers. Good silent drama. ****
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7/10
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!
Robert J. Maxwell19 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing this when it was released, in a theater in Palo Alto, and not expecting much. I mean -- an Australian movie? Chips Rafferty would be in it somewhere. But it finally got to me. Here's a scene. Richard Chamberlain is sitting cross legged on the floor of a shabby apartment in Sidney, facing an Australian aborigine elder named Charlie.

Chamberlain: "You were outside my house last night. You frightened my wife. Who are you?" And Charlie at a deliberate pace replies, "Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?. . . . Are you a fish? Are you a snake? Are you a man? . . . . Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?" It's a stunning scene, shot all in close ups, with Chamberlain's blandly handsome face filling the screen in opposition to Charlie's black, broad-nosed, unyielding bearded visage.

The two guys couldn't be more different and this film is the story of how Chamberlain accidentally stumbles from his humdrum lawyerly existence into the inexplicable, almost unspeakable, mysteries of Charlie's world.

I don't think I'll go on much about the plot. It's kind of an apocalyptic tale. But I must say, whoever did the research on Australian aboriginal belief systems should get an A plus. They've got everything in here, from pointing the bone to the dream time, a kind of parallel universe in which dreams are real. It's an extremely spooky movie without any musical stings or splendiferous special effects. Charly's world simply begins to intrude into Chamberlain's dreams, for reasons never made entirely clear.

If there's a problem with the script, that's it. Nothing is ever made entirely clear. Does Chamberlain, who seems to have some extraordinary rapport with the aborigines, die in the last wave? Do the aborigines? Does the entirety of Sidney? The basic premise is a little hard to accept too, though granted that this is a fantasy. The aborigines are invested with the kind of spiritual power that Americans bestow on American Indians, whereas the fact is that mythology is mythology and while one may be more complex or satisfying -- more elegant and beautiful, if you like -- mythology is still an attempt to transcend an ordinary, demanding, and sometimes disappointing physical existence. The mysticism of Charlie is more convincing that the miracles of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments," but they're brothers under the skin.

But I don't care about that. Taken as a film, this one is pretty good, and it's especially important for marking the celebrity of the director, Peter Weir, and the Australian film industry. This was the first of a great wave of films from the antipodes, some of them raucous, like "Mad Max," and some subtle and dramatic, like "Lantana." I like Weir's stuff, which resembles Nicholas Roeg's in being pregnant with subliminal dread. Try "Picnic at Hanging Rock" for an example of how to make a truly chilling movie with not a drop of blood.
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Ahead of its time
jtur888 July 2002
I came away thinking that this was a 1997 film, produced 20 years ahead of its time. Very few films can say that, but The Last Wave really did leave one with the sense that an alien who had seen the future revealed (in a dream?) to the director how films would be shot 20 years in the future. That doesn't make it a "good" picture, when seen in the present---it just makes it remarkably fresh for an oldie. I loved the willingness of the director to tolerate silence, and to let scenes go, actionless, without screaming CUT all the time. At times, made me think of Anouk Aimee's wonderful 22-second "look" when Trintignant first held her hand.
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Tense, somewhat surreal, mood piece
DeeDee-104 February 1999
A youthful Richard Chamberlain takes on more than he bargained for in helping a group of Aboriginals and the mystery of a slaying. He becomes involved in the civil law of the land and the tribal law of the native people, and as the inevitable clash occurs, Chamberlain, an attorney, finds himself being pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery. The powerful "dream time" has a life of its own and proves to be the ultimate law. Classic Peter Weir.
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8/10
Fine follow-up to Picnic at Hanging Rock
gizmomogwai15 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Peter Weir made a classic with Picnic at Hanging Rock in 1975, a mysterious, intriguing little film arguing there are things out there we can't really understand, in the world generally and the Australian wild in particular. The Last Wave follows some of those themes and has much of the same mesmerizing, dream-like style.

That said, there are differences. Much of the movie is a legal drama, following a white lawyer handling a criminal case of Aborigines accused of manslaughter of one of their own. Although this happened in the city, he becomes convinced the Aborigines are not city people but members of remnants of a tribe. He argues the victim died of sorcery and defends his clients under tribal law. At the same time, he is experiencing strange dreams while Australia becomes subject to strange weather patterns, including large hail and black rain.

I'm a kind of person who likes legal dramas, including unorthodox and complex ones- bringing sorcery into the courtroom is unusual, with tricky undercurrents (the lawyer is confused of racism in romanticizing the Aborigines). The supernatural elements are also intriguing, but that said, I was a little disappointed when the movie drops the courtroom story completely (it's mentioned he's lost his case) to focus on the dreamtime story. The remainder of the movie becomes abstract and harder to explain, but it can still draw you in.
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9/10
One of the best Australian films I have seen for a long time
ladymidath10 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Last Wave is an atmospheric and moody film about a man's premonition that a giant wave is going to engulf Australia and most likely the world. It begins with scenes of everyday life in various parts of Australia being disrupted by freak weather patterns. Only the Aboriginal people seemed to understand what is going on. Enter a lawyer who is representing a group of Aboriginal men after an altercation in a pub ends in the death of a young man. He agrees to defend them although he is not a criminal lawyer and that is when his life starts to unravel. Strange weather and visions of an upcoming apocalypse plague the lawyer and slowly he realizes that the world is going to end. This is one of the finest films of the genre and one of my favourite Peter Weir films. The settings are dark and at times, almost Gothic. The acting is spot on and Richard Chamberlain is absolutely perfect in the role as the lawyer, a rational man caught in a terrifying situation. While it's not easy to find a copy of the movie here in Australia, if you can, see it. It is a chance to see Australian film making at it's best
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7/10
Awesome directorial style, little thrills.
LostHighway1018 February 2007
I just watched "The Last Wave" in my school's fine arts library. It's intriguing, like all Peter Weir's stuff, but it's not always as attention-holding as I would have liked. I found myself fascinated by the ideas being thrown at me (because they are very well handled by the film's director Weir)but at the same time I was not stimulated enough by them. AKA I got a little bored in spots.

The plot surrounds an Aussie lawyer who becomes obsessed with certain dreams he has which link him to an Aborigone group he is defending.

It starts out with an intense weather sequence and has some very awesome mood effects throughout (most notably the bizarre, "belching" sound design)and strong direction; but it just didn't entertain me like Weir's later films do. I might just need to watch it again though.

Good film about obsession and mystery. Because, in the end, the mystery that exists between the whites and the Aboriginies offers some very severe consequences.

God bless Peter Weir, though. For him alone this film is worth watching ... very organic director. Like an Aussie response Malick! I'd give it a 7 because it's got enough great ideas to overcome its boring moments.
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9/10
The Last Wave
Scarecrow-886 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
David Burton(Richard Chamberlain, quite good)is a lawyer, more adept at handling corporate taxation(..and suffers from unusual dreams which bother him seeing this aboriginal man shrouded in darkness), who is called on to take a case concerning a group of aboriginals charged with the murder of one of their own named Billy..we see that he tries to steal stones with ritual painting on them and is killed when a leader of an aboriginal tribe named Charlie(Nandjiwarra Amagula)uses a "death bone" to stop his heart. Meanwhile, revolving around David, bizarre weather patterns effect Sydney such as rain beating down polluted dirt and rock-sized hail during bright blue skies(with no sights of clouds, such as the one that hits a school in central Australia), not to mention, a "deformed" rainbow which is split(!)into groups. As David pursues the case he finds that he is far closer to the weird events taking place than he could ever realize. One aboriginal named Chris(David Gulpilil)appears to him in a dream holding a stone with blood and he finds that this man is one of those he is to represent at trial! He finds that it's quite possible, after some strange meetings with Charlie and conversations with Chris, that he very well might be linked to a spirit named Mulkurul and that his dreams are actual premonitions of possible horrors yet to come.

Absorbing apocalyptic drama builds it's story methodically and is completely original and unpredictable. With Peter Weir in charge, the film is visually arresting as we see these very overwhelming images of possible doom towards civilization, but the film's most compelling angle is certainly David's journey to find that monumental truth that plagues him as he questions Charlie and Chris countlessly, at first to help his men get off from a crime they didn't commit, and ultimately to find out what he has to do with anything catastrophic that is occurring or might occur later.
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...and still champion
indy-3931 July 2002
I saw this film when it was first released back in the late 70's. I found it to be somewhat confusing but ultimately fascinating. Imagery from the film has stayed with me all these years and after watching "The Mothman Prophecies" the other night, I felt compelled to take this out and view it again. It is slow, but it is atmospheric. I like films that are not accesable to everyone. Some call it pretentious, I call it ambitious. Besides, you don't like pretention? Then turn your t.v. on and surf the dial...now, is pretention all that bad?
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8/10
An undiscovered gem
bobt14518 May 2010
In 1977, I doubt if audiences were as open to a film like this as they might be today. Assaulted in the 1970s with such fare as "Rosemary's Baby" it would have been natural to reject this without giving it a chance.

Thankfully, DVDs are forever.

Weir creates a film of foreign concepts, foreign to us but at home to an Aboringine still in touch with tribal ways.

Hail stones the size of bricks arrive out of a clear blue sky. Muddy rain falls on Sydney. The sky is filled with rainbows and strange southern lights in the middle of the day.

If you surrender yourself to the Aborigine concept of dream time, it makes perfect sense. What is surprising is to find that an Australian (Richard Chamberlain) has been forecast as part of this end of cycle.

Weir used real tribal people and gave them a kind of supervisory approval for the script to be as authentic as possible.

If you let your mind absorb the film without defense systems, it packs a worthwhile punch.
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9/10
Get in the Mood
Billy_Crash12 January 2009
This motion picture has a steady, haunting pace backed up with great acting (one of Chamberlain's best performances) and a story that is revealed to us over time.

Beyond that, the music fully establishes the mood and assists in maintaining an uneasy, cautious and somber tone.

Weir's story is enhanced by using aboriginals, their stories and their tensions with the dominant white population to deliver a fantasy tale that is ominous.

Although they are unrelated in story as well as genre, this maintained the same feeling within me as Ursula Le Guin's "Lathe of Heaven" (1980).

"The Last Wave" is a dramatic thriller with some shocking moments. Remember, "hacking and slicing" doesn't make a film a horror movie, it's the psychological element of fear and trepidation that rests within us all.
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7/10
Chamberlain at his finest
ctomvelu-11 November 2008
THE LAST WAVE is never going to win over the mainstream audience. It is a slow-moving but fascinating film for those who are willing to go along with it. An Australian properties lawyer is asked to take on the case of five aborigines accused in the murder of one of their own. All sorts of portents and omens soon pop up, as the man's death involves a tribal issue that was not meant for white man's court, and pretty soon the lawyer is having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy. It looks like the end of the world may be at hand, and he and the aborigines may know this but no one else does. Richard Chamberlain as the lawyer is at his peak here. David Guptil, a familiar face from several other Australian flicks and a decent actor, is one of the five aborigines on trial. THE LAST WAVE is simply not for everyone, anymore than is MAGNOLIA (both happen to have strange things falling from the sky). Check it out on a slow Saturday night.
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Has Topical Relevance
dougdoepke6 April 2008
You know the people in the movie are in for it when king-sized hailstones fall from a clear blue sky. In fact, the weather stays pretty bad throughout this atmospheric thriller, and only lawyer Chamberlain has the answer. But he's too much the European rationalist, I gather, to get in touch with that inner being that only reveals itself through dreams.

Darkly original mystery heavy on the metaphysics from director-writer Peter Weir. Already he had proved his skill at flirting with other dimensions in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Here it's the arcane world of the Australian Aborigines that confronts that the tightly ordered world of the predominant whites. Something strange is going on inside the Aborigine community when they kill one of their number for no apparent reason. Yuppie lawyer Chamberlain is supposed to defend them in a white man's court. But the more he looks into things, the more mysterious things get, and the more interested a strange old Aboriginal man gets in him. And then there're those scary dreams that come and go at odd times.

Well structured screenplay deepens interest throughout. One reason the movie works is the background normalcy of Chamberlain's wife and little daughters. Audiences can readily identify with them. And when their little world runs into forces beyond the usual framework, the normalcy begins to buckle, and we get the feeling of worlds beginning to collide. Chamberlain underplays throughout, especially during the underground discovery tour where I think he should have shown more growing awareness than he does. After all, it's the picking up of the mask that holds the key (I believe) to the riddle, yet his reaction doesn't really register the revelation.

Of course, the notion of nature striking back has a certain resonance now, thirty years later. In the film, the notion is wrapped in a lot of entertaining hocus-pocus, but the subject itself remains a telling one. One way of bringing out a central irony is the symbolism of the opening scene. A big white SUV barrels past an aboriginal family, leaving them in the historical dust. The terrain looks like an interior tribal reservation of no particular importance to the coastal fleshpots where industry dwells. Yet, it's also a region most likely to survive anything like a destructive last wave. Perhaps there's something about past and future to think about here.

Anyway, this is a really good movie that will probably stay with you.
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One film that relies on the story and mood!
flyboy-715 July 1999
THE LAST WAVE is an excellent film that has a non-stop mystery that you can not stop watching! This is one movie that has a cast of characters that you care about and feel as if it is happening to you! This film proves that its possible to make a good horror movie without buckets of blood and outrageous special effects! I believe that THE LAST WAVE is one of the best films of mystery ever made and should be considered a film classic!
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