10. THE TRIP (Co-Written and Directed by Tommy Wirkola)

I just had to find a way to make room for Norwegian Director, Tommy Wirkola’s latest Crime/Comedy “I Onde Dager” aka “The Trip” on my best of list for 2021. I’ve long been a fan of the man behind the “Dead Snow” franchise, and with this, he continues to do fun and interesting things in European film. The Trip stars Aksel Hennie (The Martian) and Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) as Lars and Lisa, a dysfunctional couple who head to a remote cabin on the lake under the guise of reconnecting. Little do they know, that each intends to kill the other. Before either of them can carry out the plan though, unexpected visitors crash the cottage and shake things up.

It’s tough to conceive of something original inside the parameters of a Crime/Comedy film, particularly these days. In the words of the Barenaked Ladies – “It’s All Been Done”. Here, Wirkola subverts the commonalities surrounding the notion of the home invasion story beat. Opting instead, for a Tarantino-esq form of structure where what may appear as seemingly trivial circumstances, eventually reveal themselves to be anything but. There’s the opening chapter, with a sort of meta component wherein which we’re introduced to struggling film writer/director “Lars”, and later his b-grade actress wife, Lisa. It’s the film within a film element that inevitably leads to a life imitating art plot device when the two decide they want to kill each other. From there, things get considerably more convoluted as outside factors begin to complicate matters. There’s copious amounts of dark humor over the course of the film and plenty of surprisingly bloody and violent moments. I love the title introductions of each of the characters (the bright yellow font is a straight up Tarantino-ism), the location and cinematography are fantastic, and the score is aptly offbeat and quirky.

The runtime is perhaps a little long, and some of the implied sexual strong-arm tactics ruffle what is otherwise quite a consistently entertaining and tone-conscious film. For those who remember 2019’s festival hit and popular cult Horror/Comedy “Come To Daddy”, The Trip offers up a similar brand of fun. Whilst not managing to reach the lofty heights of a Coen classic like “Fargo”, or even something like “Promising Young Woman”, The Trip has enough of its own DNA to elevate it from most of its counterparts in the west.

9. DON’T BREATHE 2 (Co-Written and Directed by Rodo Sayagues)

Fede Alvarez’s surprise 2016 hit “Don’t Breathe”, about a group of young adults who unknowingly rob a blind man and get far more than they ever bargained for, took the familiar home invasion plight of numerous other films (Wait Until Dark and the like) and did something unique and disturbing with it. In hindsight, having a seemingly normal protagonist reveal himself to be a genuine deviant psycho, was controversial and certainly divided viewers. I could see the honest intent behind the blind man’s twisted logic, and the fact of the matter was that Alex, Money, and Rocky (the three original protagonists) weren’t great people by any stretch of the imagination. The by-product is you, the viewer, caught in between a rock and a hard place.

Alvarez and Sayagues hit back last year with the highly-anticipated sequel, set years after the initial home invasion. Norman (Stephen Lang) is back to living a peaceful existence with young, Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) until past sins catch up with him in the form of Raylan (played by Brendan Sexton). More than the narrative driving the original Don’t Breathe, the reward could be found in the meticulous combination of great sound design, impressive cinematography, and active set pieces in order to generate maximum tension. DP, Pedro Luque returns behind the camera and Roque Banos composes another great atmopsheric score. Once more, the journey is an enjoyable and intriguing one. There are little hidden treasures surrounding motives that slowly reveal themselves. The pairing of Brendan Sexton and Adam Young is a great one – the latter playing an animated whacko named Jim-Bob.

The film returns to the original dilapidated home in suburban Detroit but also explores some welcomed new ground occupied by Raylan and his ragtag group of degenerates. If there’s a weakness shared among viewers, it’s that Norman himself is undeniably problematic to symapthise with given everything we know he’s done. You might say he’s the lesser of two evils, but only just. Notwithstanding that, action sequences are strong (if perhaps a touch farfetched at times), suspense is high, and the technical aspects are extremely well conceived. This is a sequl a rung or two lower than its predecessor, but all in all, Don’t Breathe 2 should be getting far more recognition than it is.

8. DON’T LOOK UP (Written and Directed by Adam McKay)

Are we really surprised that as I sit here adding prolific comedy filmmaker, Adam McKay’s satirical end of the world Comedy/Drama “Don’t Look Up” to my list of the best films of 2021, it currently occupies a Metascore of just 49/100. This just in people: The critics are hellbent on telling you they really don’t like it – but geez….. I wonder why? Could it be the very bold-faced and unapologetic way in which it highlights the toxic nature of mainstream media, the current wave of clickbait “journalism”, misuse of technology, and cancel culture. Not to mention the debased corporate sectors, and the government’s aversion to act in the wake of the global crisis that is climate change? Nah. “It just wasn’t very fun” according to them. In the words of Jennifer Lawrence’s, Kate Dibiasky “Maybe it’s not supposed to be fun”. I’ve always said that the filmmakers intent is everything when it comes to critiquing a film. It’s important to understand exactly what it is they’re trying to explore or attempting to convey to audiences. McKay has already shown a knack for this brand of satire with the underrated “The Big Short”, about the global financial crisis of 08′. He’s drawn criticism for dumbing the human race down, highlighting our ever-dwindling attention spans, and desire for instant gratification, and you know what? He’s completely right. How else do you explain oblivion right across the board from our world leaders and governing heads when it comes to so many of the worlds primary issues? Climate change being at the top of that list. These are supposedly educated people at the helm and they’re ignoring the cold hard facts, maybe ask yourself, why?

McKay executes some really entertaining things here with visual cues, clever edits, and the music. The ensemble cast do a stellar job, and that fact that none of them have received Oscar-nominations just further highlights how this has been overlooked by the so-called powers that be because it doesn’t fit their agenda. The dueling outbursts from Lawrence and DiCaprio are undeniably the peak performance moments in the film and are simultaneously funny and alarming. Lawrence’s recurring gag about being charged for the snacks in the white house really tickled my fancy. Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett as morning show hosts, absolutely nail the spirit of something that can only be likened to adolescent frivolity masquerading as mainstream news. Jonah Hill has his moments, Meryl Streep is solid, and Mark Rylance in a vacant and soulless send-up of Elon Musk is actually terrifying but awkwardly funny at the sametime.

Whilst not all of the jokes land, and the runtime on occassion feels like it’s dragging, Don’t Look Up feels wholeheartedly fresh. It’s most definitely not a happy ending movie and I respect that it’s willing to take a hard stance. Randall’s final line of the film encapsulates everything perfectly. The reception from general movie-goers has been largely positive, it’s those who don’t like being laughed at for the fools they have been that are taking aim at McKay and Co. The alternative would of course be to just look inward and self reflect, use it as an opportunity for growth – but surprise surprise, they don’t want to do that.

7. ANTLERS (Co-Written and Directed by Scott Cooper)

Scott Cooper’s “Antlers” might just be one of the hidden gems of 2021. Part monster movie, and part family drama by way of psychological thriller. Antlers is set in an isolated mining town in Oregon, where Julia Meadows (played by Keri Russell), a middle-school teacher dealing with her own past trauma, becomes entangled in an investigation that involves her sheriff brother, Paul (played by Jesse Plemons) and a young student of hers named Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) who is hiding a dark secret. Cooper’s a wonderful and diverse filmmaker, that for reasons unknown doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his body of work which includes the likes of “Black Mass”, “Out Of The Furnace”, and “Crazy Heart”. Each of those films boast unbelieveable performances, gritty writing, and great storytelling. I’m at a loss as to why people aren’t standing up and paying attention.

Like all of Cooper’s films, the technical aspects are extremely well-conceived. DP, Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography is superb. The heavily wooded Oregon landscape makes for gorgeous scenery and the camera is always on the move in interesting ways. Javier Navarrete’s score is unnerving and the films intense sound design further supports the overall mood of the film. There’s an essence of Del Toro in here, and that should come as no surprise given he’s listed as a producer. The edit is tight, the production design is nicely detailed, and the practical makeup fx become perpetually more disturbing as the story unravels. Performances are all strong, none more so than Keri Russell in what is an emotionally demanding role. Young, Thomas really evokes sympathy and more than holds his own in what is his first leading role. The entire opening sequence in the mine shaft is one of the best of the year and sets the tone for the remainder of the film. You’ll likely be left with some questions around the specifics regarding Lucas and those closest to him and the machinations around everything that goes down, but that just makes the film worthy of multiple viewings. Whilst I’m not entirely sold on the direction for the closing shots of the film, the final act still hits in a big way and felt reminiscent of something like “The Ritual” or Robert Eggers “The Witch” – only better. Antlers can be added to this impressive new wave of “elevated horror” as it’s been coined.

6. A QUIET PLACE PART 2 (Written and Directed by John Krasinski)

John Krasinski, the man most commonly known for his role as Jim Halper in the U.S version of “The Office”, jumped out of the gate with one of the most impressive feature film directorial debuts back in 2018 with the Horror/Sci-Fi film, “A Quiet Place”. It was a film that can best be described as an experience. One in which Krasinski set himself the challenge of somehow telling a compelling story without sound (or at least dialogue for the most part) in which the characters had to refrain from making any noise. In short, it was an examination of a family in peril in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing remain a constant threat. It drew inspiration from the likes of M Night Shyamalan and “Signs”, as well as Ridley Scott and “Alien”, but it was made up of enough of its own essence to separate itself. John and wife, Emily Blunt teamed up to give maximum credence to the story, and the casting of young Noah Jupe, as well as deaf actress Millicent Simmonds proved to be crucial components in the film becoming a triumph. The tension was inescapable from word go, the shocks came thick and fast, and it never once let go over the course of its perfectly paced 90 minutes.

So with that in mind, I’m pleased to say that much of the same can be said about the highly anticipated sequel. Right from the start, anxities and insecurities are at those same lofty heights. You feel it because our protagonist family “The Abbott’s” feel it. Once again, the score is nerve-jangling, the cinematography measured for optimum suspense, and the action sequences extremely memorable (particulary one on a train). We’re immediately dropped into the day of the “invasion” before eventually picking up where the first film left off. The opening ten minute sequence is stellar and perhaps the best part, and in a film of many great moments that’s saying something. The CG is so well composited that it never takes you out of the film, and the change up in location from the family farm to these dilapidated warehouses provides new opportunity for different types of scenes. Most notably, a particular hatch in the basement of the main warehouse becomes pivotal during the climax of the film. The additions of both Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou to the cast are welcomed ones and add another layer to the journey of the family.

As so often is the case, the characters on occasion make a few of those obligatory non-sensical decisions that place them in an even worse position than they otherwise would’ve been in. At one point, Jupe’s Marcus goes wandering off on his own. In search of what? We don’t know. This causes him to ultimately make noise which eventually leads to sporadic breathing after he’s already been told numerous times to conserve as much energy as possible because the survivors only have limited oxygen tanks. There are a few other examples but all in all there’s really not much to fault here. Sequels seldom live up to their originals ,but A Quiet Place 2 is about as close as you’re going to get. This one was fantastic!

5. PIG (Co-Written and Directed by Michael Sarnoski)

It’s unfathomable for me to think that Nicolas Cage, the once A-lister/action heavyweight turned walking internet meme, would ever make another great film again. You know the ones I’m talking about, yeah? Like “Con Air”, “The Rock”, or “Face/Off” – Hell, I’d even settle for a “Knowing” or “Windtalkers” at this point. But just as I was about to give up on the great man altogether, it turns out all he needed to do a good job was a worthwhile script (funny about that). Who knew Cage would find that little golden kernel in the most unusual of places, a little indie film about a truffle hunter and his pig – courtesy of first time-filmmaker, Michael Sarnoski. The films tagline “We don’t really get a lot of things to care about” is where the heart lie at the core of Sarnoski’s “Pig”, a simple but profound exploration of love, loss, and the grieving process. A truffle hunter by the name of Rob (Cage) has his tranquil existence turned upside down when his beloved pig is kidnapped. What ensues, is a hunt wherein which Rob procures the services of a long-time city client, Amir (played by Alex Wolff) and the two head back to civilization in search of answers.

The cinematography by Pat Scola is first class, and the blue and grey orientated color grade makes for a bleak but fitting presentation. The music choices are lovely and emotive and complement what is a very controlled edit. The film makes no apologies for being a slow-burn, but if you look beneath the surface you’ll find richness in the quieter moments and power behind the things that could be said that aren’t. Stoic and ever-present, Cage delivers perhaps the finest performance of his career, one I think most people who’ve seen the film will admit they never saw coming. It’s a travesty neither he (in a leading role) or Wolff, who also does an outstanding job (in a supporting category), have been nominated at this years Academy Awards. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. The film not receiving a nomination itself doesn’t surprise me either, especially when you look around at what continues to flood the cinemas and streaming platforms. I’ll give you oneclue: it starts with an M and ends with an L (oh yeah A,R,V and E are all in the middle). Do you think there might be some truth around our need for instant gratification at all times? *rolls eyes* There’s so many tender and great moments to experience here if you can just sit still with your own thoughts and feelings. The friendship that develops between Rob and Amir is one cultivated out of a sense of respect, more so from the young man to the almost father figure that Rob evolves into. It’s clearly a frustrating relationship at times for both parties, but one the other seems to value quite a bit more than they first let on.

There’s subtle layers within Pig similar to that of what can be found in Craig Gillespie’s little-known masterpiece, “Lars and The Real Girl”. Perhaps not to the same extent, as the polar opposites in that film swing from moment to moment (where you can go from laughing to crying within seconds), but just in the way that Pig requires you to look a little deeper in order to extract the full scope of what’s transpiring beneath the surface. One of the best scenes in the film is a simple one in which Rob crosses paths in a restaurant with someone from his old life. What begins as just simple pleasantries, quickly dissolves into some harsh truths about what it means to be an individual, to be your own person, to not bend to what society might expect of you. It hits home hard in a dramatic sense but simultaneously satirizes the entire culinary arts – which in an of itself is a character within the film. There’s beauty in the tragedy as is perfectly unveiled as the film reaches its surprisingly docile conclusion. If you’re looking for something completely different and entirely original you owe it to yourself to seek out Pig. It’s films like this that simply aren’t being made anymore, but we as viewers can demand that change here and now. Pig is silent in the way “You Were Never Really Here” was and contains much of the same poignancy exhibited in the aforementioned “Lars and The Real Girl”. Congratulations Nic, it’s nice to have you back.

4. THE LAST DUEL (Directed by Ridley Scott)

“The Last Duel” found itself featuring quite prominently in news articles online last year, when Director Ridley Scott took aim (and rather fairly so) at Marvel and moviegoers alike for continuing to support an oversaturated commercial market of superhero blockbusters – each offering up the same as the previous. Consequently, epicly scaled historical ventures with something to say like The Last Duel were given little to no publicity at all. Needless to say, it wasn’t an opinion that was received very well among the general populas who attend those kinds of films (despite there being a fair amount of truth to what he said). Most people just chalked it up to Ridley having perhaps grown cynical and bitter with age, but anyway, I digress.

In spite of the trivial antics that followed the initial release and it’s less than ideal box office numbers, The Last Duel is an extremely impressive Medieval period piece with a unique approach to a familiar “Shakespearean” style of story. Co-Written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, this three-chaptered script, in which we see the same central events play out but each time from a different perspective, is like nothing we’ve ever seen before in a film of this nature. Clocking in at 152 minutes, The Last Duel is a grand telling that revolves around the events leading to a despicable crime having been committed. Knight Jean de Carrouges (played wonderfully by Damon) along with his wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer) and his squire and former friend, Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) become entangled in a web of lies and deceit that lead to the two men challenging each other in a duel.

This is a film all about atmosphere and performance and boasts wonderful displays from each member of the cast. I suppose if this was completely authentic they would’ve learned French accents though, but that’s a tall order to get right so you’d argue why take the risk? And I guess they didn’t. Still, Damon’s battleworn exterior is incredibly detailed and allows him to express himself in a manner that we haven’t quite seen before, Driver balances the mild-mannered and intense parts of his character perfectly, and Ben Affleck’s turn as self-assured Pierre d’Alencon is something completely out of left field for him, but refreshingly welcomed just the same. It’s Jodie Comer’s resolute and powerful performance as Marguerite that steals the show though – aided by the fact that her character is the only one who bears no culpability for the actions of these men. As you would expect, production values, musical score, and cinematography are all first class.

It’s a film that evoked a lot of different emotions from me and is bound to frustrate viewers at times. The characters are inherently watchable but aren’t likeable or sympathetic in any way. Even Carrouge is caught up in the never ending war within for honor and respect, but is neveranything but self-serving at every turn. The injustices enacted and the absurdity of letting a supposed “higher power” (essentially about the equivalent of tossing a coin), which in actual fact is just men themselves, decide a guilty or not guilty verdict for something they have no first-hand knowledge of is infuriating. The scariest and most realistic thing about The Last Duel is the ways in which characters justify their actions, the notion of perception vs reality and that there’s supposedly always two sides to a story. However, we know that’s simply not the case and sometimes there’s just one story and it’s true. This film lays that all out on the table and forces you in a very matter of fact way to look at the reality of the situation. There is no grey area here, only black and white – something that mirrors everything we are still seeing in these violence against women cases in 2022.

3. MASS (Written and Directed by Fran Krantz)

I can already begin to see Fran Krantz’s devastatingly heart-wrenching independent drama “Mass” slipping through the cracks (much like one of the character’s the film centers around), falling by the wayside purely because it doesn’t feature instant gratification that supposedly comes with eye popping visuals, high production values, and action aplenty. I had high hopes for the film when there was some brief talk of Ann Dowd finally receiving a long overdue oscar-nomination, but such was not to be the case (imagine my surprise). If you know anything about Fran Krantz, a guy mostly known for his roles in “Cabin In The Woods” and TV’S “Dollhouse”, you’d know that this isn’t something anyone would’ve expected from him. The topic and themes of Krantz’s directorial debut couldn’t be more pertient in today’s society. Mass is a slow-burn that makes you sit with it moment to moment, through the uncomfortable silences, as these four characters sit in a room and attempt to make sense of the senseless.

To really say much of anything specific about Mass would ultimately diminish the viewing experience, so I’ll refrain. It presents very much like an intimate theatre production, using really only one location, minimal space, and just a handful of characters. Mass is so beautifully and thoroughly well-written, that when you combine it with as remarkable a casting as this, is there any wonder it leaves a long lasting impression. Dowd is as seasoned as they come, having given some great performances over the years and perhaps none better than this one. You’re able to immerse yourself within it and really feel what it must be like to be in those weighted shoes. Her counterpart is played by Reed Birney, who sort of grounds the whole film nicely. Boy oh boy, Martha Plimpton is fantastic in this one – riding every emotional beat effortlessly, and Jason Isaacs works perfectly in tandem with her through the duo’s struggle.

The film is pretty well paced given the difficult subject matter. If I had a criticism, one particular exterior wideshot that Kranz comes back to on multiple occassions clearly held some kind of symbolism but I couldn’t decipher what it was. Couple, Jay and Gail had clearly never been to that remote town before so I didn’t get the context for that illustration. Mass is a powerful and marvelous debut from Krantz and it might just be up there with one of the best first-timers we’ve ever seen.

The Father (2020) - IMDb

2. THE FATHER (Co-Written and Directed by Florian Zeller)

“The Father” is the directorial debut from French-born, Florian Zeller and it stars Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. The story is told with an entirely fresh perspective where nothing is as it seems. It’s a depiction of the harsh realities of the crippling disease commonly known as Alzheimers. Anthony (played by Hopkins) has lived in London his entire life and is refusing to trade in his independence for assisted living. Daughter, Anne (Colman) devotes her time to her father and his daily demands, but as his grip on reality fades, she’s presented with the challenge of preparing him for the final chapter of his life.

I’ll be the first to admit that I slept far too long on this heartfelt and moving drama. I recall hearing about Hopkins winning the oscar for this portrayal of a man losing his memory, and thought I best watch the film before compiling my list of the best films of the year. Any time someone subverts the usual means of storytelling, and even more so with something as delicate as this, I’m more often than not intrigued. Much like the aforementioned “Mass”, The Father presents more like a play than a cinematic film production, wherein which the focus is performance and character driven rather than narrative. That said, cinematography, editing, and pacing are all very well conceived. In a career full of memorable performances, Hopkins saves his best for The Father. He conveys the whole gamut of human emotions and is able to switch things up on a dime. It’s a challenge further complicated by the fact that the film isn’t necessarily told in chronological order. Characters appear and re-appear at random so as to place you firmly in Anthony’s shoes and depict that fragility of the human brain. Colman just continues to go from strength to strength. I first saw her a decade back in a little-known indie gem with Peter Mullan called “Tyrannosaur” where she blew me away, I urge you to check it out if you haven’t. She illustrates perfectly the sheer helplessness of knowing there’s this person that you love deeply, who is slowly fading away and has no way of grasping that information.

The film isn’t without its somberly funny moments where you see the otherside of the coin. There’s a true to life juxtaposition on display, where Anne (Anthony’s family) feels vulnerable and disabled and we see that, but from Anthony’s perspective there’s nothing wrong. No suffering, no regret, no longing for something unattainable, simply because the slate is now blank – or soon will be. I had a laugh, I had a cry, I also reflected after having it reaffirmed to me that these things are all a part of life, and therefore you should cherish every moment you do have with the ones that you love. The Father is a difficult and depressing watch but a masterclass in acting and a wonderful picture.

1. NITRAM (Directed by Justin Kurzel)

And here we are, bringing me to my number one film of 2021 (define that however you like) which was Justin Kurzel’s controversial Drama/Thriller “Nitram”, a film based on true events. For those of you who are familiar with South Australian-born Kurzel, he jumped onto the scene back in 2011 with his impressive Drama/Biography “Snowtown”, based on the true story of the bodies-in-the-barrels murders in Adelaide,South Australia. The film was a major success and began opening doors for Justin around the world – eventually he would go on to make both “Macbeth” and “Assassin’s Creed”. Justin teams once-more with writer Shaun Grant on “Nitram”, a challenging film that depicts the events leading up to the tragic 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in an attempt to understand how and why it occurred. There isn’t an Aussie who doesn’t know what you’re referring to when you say “Port Arthur”. It marks one of the darkest days in Australian history, where a lone gunman named Martin Bryant entered the Broad Arrow cafe and opened fire on innocent patrons, eventually killing 35 people and wounding many more.

I can’t imagine the conversations that must’ve transpired as Kurzel and Co were attempting to get this film off the ground. No doubt the vast majority of people would’ve immediately started jumping to conclusions about what this film was going to be, what the intentions were behind wanting to make it in the first place etc. I saw more than a few ignorant responses from media personnel, who firstly, attempted to pontificate about the content in the film (despite not a single shot of it having been filmed at that point) raising baseless hypothetical’s such as “Why would you want to show all these people being terrorized and killed” (none of which is actually depicted in the final film), and secondly, accusing the filmmakers of simply wanting to profit off of a tragedy such as this. I took all of that at face value, and instead, sought after as many interviews and compiled as much information from Kurzel and Grant as I could regarding their intentions for the film.

Let’s strip away the fact that Nitram (which most have noticed is Martin spelt backwards) never once actually mentions the gunman’s name, nor is there any actual on screen violence depicted of the event itself. Hell, it wasn’t even filmed in Tasmania – Kurzel opting for the city of Geelong instead. At its core, Nitram is equal parts a social commentary on gun control, as well as a stark deconstruction of the issues associated with and stemming from mental health problems and the stigma that comes with those. This is the best collection of performances that I saw in a film from 2021. Important supporting players like Essie Davis and Anthony Lapaglia turn in some of their best work. Judy Davis is so natural and superb in this film, her most powerful scene coming midway through where she recalls to Essie’s “Helen” a childhood story about her son. Texas-born Caleb Landry Jones (who won the Best Actor at Cannes) was cast in this controversial and demanding leading role and he whole-heartedly embodied this individual almost to a tee. His Aussie accent is sublime and his ability to say so much without words is key and ever-present. If I had the smallest of gripes, it was that perhaps he could’ve lost a bit more weight to better resemble Bryant – but other than that, the physical likeness is simply uncanny.

The attention to detail around the authenticity of the time period, respective locations, and the events themselves is second to none. The subject matter is such a difficult one, and knowing the real events I couldn’t possibly sympathise with the character, but Kurzel doesn’t ask you to. There’s always a number of things that lead someone down a certain path, you can never pin point just one thing. So Instead, Kurzel explores the existence of the character exactly as he were (or would’ve been). Being present with him through mundane day to day, in his skin, and when you do that it’s almost impossible to not empathise with how difficult it would be to live a life like that. This is a guy who just exists, there’s nothing really resembling a life there. He doesn’t have a job, any friends, any future prospects, any goals, any dreams. He’s deemed a lost cause by society and what a lonely existence that would be. The mindset of this frustrated man is summed up in one particular scene where he tells his mother “Sometimes I watch myself but I don’t know who I’m looking at”.. I’m paraphrasing but you get the point. One of the issues is that Martin was said to have been mentally disabled in terms of his diminished mental capacity, so therefore if he’s able to actually show signs of self-examination (which he does in that scene), it’s safe to assume he can decipher right from wrong and yet he still chose to carry out this elaborate massacre. That’s pure evil.

There hasn’t been a film in a long time that left me feeling quite like this one did when the credits began to roll. Nitram is another film from 2021 that never even got a modicum of the attention it deserved. This is a scary character study that also has a lot to say about a number of pertinent issues. Educate yourself on one of Australia’s darkest days and maybe gain some insight about the steps we can all take to ensure something like this never happens again.