First Look Review: Mystery Road

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★★★★☆

Though it would be wrong to suggest that all that is wonderful and effective in crime fiction comes down to Scandinavia and the current influx of so-called “Nordic Noir” that is filling up our Sky planners and boxset collections, I can’t help but see echoes of The Killing in this beautifully made and well-acted drama from Iven Sen. From the initial discovery of a murdered teenage girl to the slowly unfolding sense of menace, I half expected Sara Lund to walk into the frame. If she did (she doesn’t, sorry) she would have to lose her iconic woolly jumper, as this isn’t snowy Copenhagen. This is burning hot Australia.

The cop in this instance is an Aboriginal detective named Jay Swan who returns to his small neighbourhood after working the city streets many miles away. He is played with a magnetic intensity by Aaron Pedersen and as the film develops his performance becomes the greatest and most memorable thing about the film (and this is high praise indeed, since everything that is going on around him is very well done).

Issues of racism, social class divides and shady conspiracies make this murder thriller a decidedly tasty and compelling piece of work with a lot of bite mixed in with controlled, moody cinematography. Supporting actors Tasma Walton and Ryan Kwanten deliver good performances, but it’s Hugo Weaving’s unsettling turn as Swan’s colleague that really stands out.

Some may find the pace a little slow, but the build-up is part of the weird, dangerous spell this film casts on its viewer. Stick with it, let the atmosphere envelope you and savour everything it has to give.

Mystery Road (2013), directed by Ivan Sen, is released in cinemas in the UK on 29 August by Axiom Films, Certificate 15. 

This review is published in association with The National Student

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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