Film Review: Mystery Road

Mystery Road

Mystery Road is a brooding crime thriller that does well to engage viewers for the most part.

Jay Swan, a indigenous police detective returns to his Outback town. His first case to solve is the murder of an indigenous girl, whose body is found under the highway. As he struggles to find the killer, Jay feels alienated by the white-dominated police force as well as the indigenous local community…

Ivan Sen’s film lives up to its title, posing a murder mystery than deepens as the narrative progresses. The focus is primarily on the case, although aspects of community relations and family dynamics intwine with the main plot.

Mystery Road is a little overlong overall. The mystery is engaging for the most part, but falters in the middle third. The film offers a number of possible villains, retaining the audience’s interest as the narrative twists.

Sen’s film is successful in exhibiting the issues of the indigenous community in contemporary Australia. Mystery Road offers a nuanced depiction of community tension in the small town. With the various factions at play, most characters are not simply painted as heroes and villains, but rather populate the grey areas.

Mystery Road features a wonderful use of natural lighting and cinematography. There are some striking silhouette. The film makes the most of its landscape. Aaron Pedersen offers a decent performance as Jay Swan. Hugo Weaving is completely believable as the veteran detective.

Mystery Road has an ending that seems slightly at odds with what has occurred before. Nevertheless, the film works as something of a cowboy murder mystery.

Mystery Road is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.