John Connolly’s The Dry

Australia is the perfect place to set a good mystery, there’s just this inherently unexplored magnitude of desolation, otherworldly geological splendour and ghostly vastness to the landscape, an advantage that director John Connolly seizes with The Dry, an absolutely sensational noir singed thriller starring Eric Bana in a galvanizing comeback of sorts, or at least in my eyes I feel like I haven’t seen the dude in a while and he comes roaring back into play here. Based on the novel by Jane Harper, Bana plays Melbourne detective Aaron Falk, who returns home to Kiewarra, the outback bush-town he grew up in after the family of a childhood friend is found brutally murdered, including a young child. He initially only plans to stay for the funeral but the moment he arrives, the entire suppressed collective memory of the townsfolk dredges back up to the surface and before you know it old grudges are stirred and painful memories of the unsolved murder of a teenage girl from their past come back to haunt them, especially Aaron who was unofficially implicated as a teen. As if all this isn’t stressful enough already, the region is also going through an apocalyptic drought that makes the threat of wildfire an ever present source of anxiety and causes threatening, Mordor-esque flares of fiery colour on the horizon. The film expertly meanders through a narrative that feels languid and as slow paced as the sun etching across the desert horizon and as brittle, succinct and unforgiving as the landscape. We weave back and forth between hazily recollected flashbacks to the teenage years of this group, jigsawed together with laser precision and tethered to the present day investigation that bit by bit, conversation by conversation, memory by memory, yields truth to both mysteries. The eventual resolutions to both threads are shocking, cathartic, operatic and intensely emotional experiences impeccably acted by the entire cast, beautifully and eerily scored by Peter Raeburn (check out his amazing musical work in this year’s Amazon Prime show Tell Me Your Secrets as well) and given the evocative atmospheric boost of the ever present Australian wilderness enveloping everything. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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