Mystery Road

STARRIG: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Tasma Walton, Damian
RATING: 3.5 stars

I remember studying 2002's Beneath Clouds at university and thinking it was such a visually beautiful film. Writer/director Ivan Sen wonderfully captured the outback and Aboriginal culture. Now, 11 years later, he has written and directed another interesting piece of Australian cinema with some equally impressive cinematography in Mystery Road. Again, he tells an indigenous story, but it is very different. As a murder mystery detective story, it is hard to talk too much about the film without giving away spoilers, suffice to say it takes several twists and turns. Although the film is too long and slow-paced, it weaves an interesting web that finishes with some loose ends dangling just enough to allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns to his old outback town after a stint in the city. His first case is to investigate the murder of a young Aboriginal girl. But what he soon discovers is that he may be the only one interested in solving the crime with his fellow officers pursuing other priorities and the rest of the town resigned to the fact that young Aboriginal girls are going missing or dying. Was the girl prostituting herself? Was she killed by a truck driver? Was she involved in an illegal drug ring?

Pedersen carries the film well with his charisma and acting ability. He is supported by a who's who list of Australian actors including Hugo Weaving playing a cop who may be more than unethical, Ryan Kwanten who plays a mysterious hunter, Damian Walshe-Howling as a local drug dealer, and Tasma Walton as Swan's ex-wife and mother of his teenage daughter. Several other Aussies pop up, such as Jack Thompson, and you will be pointing at the screen every time you recognise someone.

Mystery Road is a departure from many typical Australian films. That in itself should be praised. While it is not an amazing film, it is enjoyable.