2013 / Director. Ivan Sen.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I wont mince words. MYSTERY ROAD is excellent. In many ways it is a modern western. Set in a remote desert community in the far reaches of Queensland, the film begins with the discovery of a young aboriginal girl who has been murdered and dumped beneath a highway overpass. A local indigenous detective finds himself on the case and must track the killer with almost no evidence and a community that remains tight lipped. Almost everyone is a suspect and the detective quickly finds himself ostracised. As the investigation unfolds he slips deeper and deeper into the town's seedy underworld where villains lurk and drugs reign. There is something classic about MYSTERY ROAD and its story plays out almost poetically. Director Ivan Sen has established himself as a skilled filmmaker and his use of landscape is comparable with The Coen Brothers. Watching the film with a sense of wonder, my mind was cast back to films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, FARGO and BLOOD SIMPLE. This is definitely cut from the same cloth. There's also a familiar tone to the film which reminded me of Atom Egoyan's brilliant THE SWEET HEREAFTER. If you're familiar with all of those aforementioned films then you will definitely want to see MYSTERY ROAD. The script is tight, the cinematography is stunning and the performances are top-notch. Right from the get-go the film boasts one of the most impressive ensembles of Aussie players that I've ever seen... Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, Zoe Carides, Tony Barry, David Field, Bruce Spence, Jack Charles, Roy Billing, Damian Walshe-Howling and Robert Mammone. Wow!! And the film is lead with a mesmerising lead performance by Aaron Pedersen. Despite the gigantic line-up of heavyweight performers Pedersen still manages to carry the film almost single handedly. He's been an impressive actor for many years but this film solidifies his talent. One quality that so many great Australian films have is their violent and powerful final acts. If you can recall films like THE CHANT OF JIMMY BLACK SMITH, WAKE IN FRIGHT or even the recent RED HILL you will understand what I mean. They each perpetually build up their suspense to an almighty breaking point where something has got to give and that something is often violent and ugly... MYSTERY ROAD can be added to that list. This is an exceptional film in every way and one that every self-respecting cinephile ought to see.