Director Ivan Sen
Starring Aaron Pedersen, Alex Russell, Jacki Weaving
Running time 110 minutes
Verdict Mystery thriller strikes a rich seam
NOIR fades to rouge in the harsh glare of the Aussie Outback. And few filmmakers are better qualified than Ivan Sen to capture this fascinating tonal shift.
The indigenous multi-hyphenate — Sen wrote, directed, shot, edited and composed the music for Goldstone — has an extraordinarily keen eye for the changing contours of the desert landscape.
His cinematography of the distinctive countryside around Winton, Queensland, is worth the price of admission alone.
But there’s more to Goldstone than good looks.
The plot – when indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) rolls into town to investigate a missing person inquiry, he uncovers a tangled web of corruption – reads like a fairly standard crime thriller.
But by relocating the action to the dead heart of Australia, where the most substantial piece of Western infrastructure is an open-cast mine, Sen’s perspective is remarkably fresh.
Goldstone is a contemporary version of a frontier town. And while the genre tropes and archetypes are reassuringly familiar, Sen’s manifestation of them is disarmingly off-key.
Jacki Weaver’s femme fatale bakes apple pies —in one scene she even wears an apron. But there’s no mistaking the fact that the immaculately groomed Mayor of Goldstone shares some of Animal Kingdom’s Janine “Smurf” Cody’s DNA.
It would be equally unwise to underestimate David Wenham’s mining boss, just because he gets around in shorts and long socks.
Unsurprisingly, the indigenous characters are far more comfortable in Sen’s desert landscape and the filmmaker draws out a series of unforced performances from the likes of Ursula Jovich and David Gulpilil.
Pedersen’s drunken cop spans the two worlds – or attempts to. Part-tracker, part-human casualty, part-avenger and part-sleuth, Swan is a complex character and Pedersen honours that in a multi-layered performance.
The film momentarily falters in the climactic, western-style shootout, but it recovers in
time to deliver an emotionally satisfying denouement.