Reviewed by: Nick Heydon
CONTRIBUTOR (first time)
|Featuring:||Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington, John Jarratt, Stephen Curry, Heather Mitchell, Geoff Morrell, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Taylor, Caroline Brazier Celia Ireland|
|Producer:||Matt Hearn, David Lightfoot, Greg Mclean, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein|
|Distributor:||The Weinstein Co.|
“How fast can you swim?”
Australian film has always managed to generate some kind of stereotype, the most obvious being Paul Hogan’s Mick Dundee from the “Crocodile Dundee” trilogy. Hogan’s Mick was a pleasant Aussie bloke who was in love with the Australian outback and had an obsession for one of its most intriguing but dangerous creatures: the crocodile. Obviously, very few Australians are like Mick (I have lived in Australia all my life and have never seen a live croc in the wild), but one can’t help thinking that the stereotype from this film is easy to believe and fall in love with.
What follows is the Aussie stereotype gone wrong. A few years ago, writer/director Greg Mclean made a film called “Wolf Creek.” Set in the Australian outback, it was about a crazed serial killer (also called Mick—and he had a big knife, too) who had an obsession for mercilessly stalking and murdering innocent tourists. “Wolf Creek” was gratuitously violent, sadistic and, quite frankly, repulsive. At times, it was almost unbearable to watch. I, therefore, approached Mclean’s next major film, “Rogue,” with a strong sense of trepidation.
Mclean continues to develop, and, at the same time, subvert the Aussie stereotype in “Rogue.” Wolf Creek’s Mick was Crocodile Dundee’s Mick in serial killer mode. Here, the crocodile, itself, takes on the role of serial killer.
Radha Mitchell returns to her Australian roots here—accent intact, too—as Kate Ryan, a crocodile sightseeing tour operator. On her small river boat, she takes out a fresh batch of tourists, made up of some fine Australian actors. Joining Mitchell are John Jarratt (who played Mick in “Wolf Creek,” fortunately, he is an entirely different character here), Stephen Curry and Heather Mitchell, among others. Barry Otto (Miranda’s father) also makes a cameo appearance early on as another great Aussie stereotype: the barman. Rounding out the tour group is Michael Vartan, playing nervous travel writer Pete McKell, who hopes to promote Australia to his American readers. His experience on this boat will not be a favorable one for Australian tourism.
It is some time before trouble begins. The cruise is pleasant, with serene shots of the landscape, stressing peace, but, at the same time, there is a growing sense of dread. As the boat approaches a small island in the middle of the river, the monster crocodile attacks. The beauty of the film’s suspense is that, initially, the crocodile cannot be seen, only its effects can: the tour boat is damaged and has crashed on the small island, and one of the tourists has gone missing, simply snatched silently from the edge of the water to certain death without anyone really noticing. With a giant croc in the water, a sinking boat, the sun setting, and the tide rising, Kate and her tourists realize that unless they find a way to escape, they are now simply prey, waiting to be eaten.
“Rogue” is, at its core, a mildly enjoyable monster film. It makes good use of suspense and ensures thrills, but not much can be learned from it, other than the selfishness of humans when placed in situations where it is survival of the fittest. There is one great sequence when the stranded tour group finds a way to escape to the safety of land on the other side of the river by climbing on a suspended rope. One character, played by Geoff Morrell, becomes scared and impatient, and starts climbing on the rope, despite protests from Kate that the rope will snap, as there are too many people on it already. Sure enough, it does, and his selfish act hinders the possibility of escape for everyone else. Recognizing the errors of his ways, he has a chance to apologize, in shame. This reminds us that from Philippians 2:3-5, we are told:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Vartan’s Pete McKell has an opportunity, later on, to act in selfless humility for the other tourists, not considering his own interests first. Although McKell’s story, in this film, is a rather thin and clichéd bravery act, the comparison with Morrell’s selfish character is made clearly enough.
Unlike “Wolf Creek,” this film is not overly sadistic in its violence, but it is probably not a good film for squeamish viewers, as a lot of blood is shown, and a couple of characters are seen snatched up by the crocodile, which is not a pleasant sight. There are plenty of scares, and some of the suspense is very well handled, which will please those seeking a thrill. There are some disturbing scenes which imply violence, especially one where the tourists, in desperation, argue over whether they should sacrifice Kate’s dog to act as bait and a diversion for the hungry croc. This scene, and others, will probably be disturbing for animal lovers.
There are no sex scenes, and sexual references are limited, yet there is one scene where a male’s naked bottom is shown, but it is presented more as a vulgar joke, rather than in a sexually explicit way. Finally, there is quite a lot of swearing, given the circumstances, and the Lord’s name is used in vain several times.
This is definitely not a film for children, as the violence is quite real (croc attacks do happen), and, generally, the material is unsuitable, especially the final scenes where there is a showdown with the huge crocodile, which is, at times, quite frightening. Young adults who are not easily scared or offended by these types of films may get some enjoyment from it, but it should be said that this film could offend sensitive viewers.
On a creative note, this film achieves much, and it is better than the average horror or suspense film. It is, also, genuinely thrilling, with Mclean effectively creating a sense of isolation and desperation. The acting is fine all around, but the two standouts are Radha Mitchell, who creates a strong-willed but ultimately vulnerable character in Kate. Also, Heather Mitchell is strong. She is a largely unknown actress outside of Australia (for those of you who saw “Irresistible,” she was Susan Sarandon’s book publisher). She gives her Elizabeth a dignity in the face of terror. Despite the croc attack, she is also facing death with a cancer illness. Her performance is not sentimental nor is it weak.
The location shooting is absorbing, and Mclean wisely exploits the beauty in the harsh landscape, while, also, developing a sense of terror which lurks beneath the still, shimmering water. The croc itself—although ridiculously large—is believable and terrifying, and is a credit to the special effects department.
“Rogue” is not the best Australian film in recent years, but it doesn’t deserve to be avoided. For this reason, it is unlike “Wolf Creek,” yet the stereotypes remain. For those who don’t mind some scary thrills, this should be a somewhat satisfying film to sink your teeth in to.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild