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Saturday, October 5, 2013
Review: Mystery Road (Ivan Sen, 2013)
Mystery Road is the latest feature from Ivan Sen – who not only writes and directs, but photographs, edits and composes too (Sen’s previous film Toomelah screened in the Un Certain Regard at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival). The story follows an indigenous detective who on return to his hometown finds himself the sole investigator into the death of a young girl. In this gripping, cinematic, well-acted and admirably patiently-crafted police procedural a harrowing mystery collides with national prejudice. This provocative contemporary western depicts the crime and corruption that continues to pollute small isolated towns of outback Australia.
Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns to his Western Queensland country hometown after a stint in the ‘big smoke’, headlong into a case involving a murdered indigenous girl. Wild dogs, heard in the vicinity at the time, and rumours of a suspected drug ring become just some of the primary clues Jay follows to every corner of the town leading to the unveiling of further disconcerting operations. He suppresses the prevalent resentment he faces as he investigates – both from the distrusting indigenous community, who have all-but ostracized him, and the uncooperative white folk – as well as dealing with a contemptuous and apparently lackadaisical local police force who he is reluctant to entrust. Surrounded by unforgiving, dwarfing nature, the isolation results in the town becoming a breeding ground for criminal enterprises, and the bored and disillusioned youth find themselves easily exploited. As we watch this determined man try to win back his identity and credibility within his former community and prove that he has the skills the make a difference, the suspense begins to mount.