Enter Australia’s contemporary Western-mystery you never knew you needed in your life until now. It’s a scorcher!
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Aboriginal Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), responding to a missing persons lead, reports to the desolate mining town of Goldstone; a barren turf deep in the Australian outback as far removed from morality as it is from reality. The local law enforcement – a young cop named Josh (Alex Russell) – has little to do and is easily bribed and manipulated by the head of the mining work force (David Wenham) and the town mayor (Jacki Weaver), who are apprehensive of Swan’s arrival. Though mistrustful of Swan at first, Josh puts his differences with the detective aside when his investigation uncovers a sinister underbelly of sex trafficking and corruption coursing through Goldstone.
Indigenous writer/director Ivan Sen’s Goldstone follows on from his previous feature (2013’s Mystery Road), but while it does bear much in common with its predecessor – the slow burn crime puzzle, the strong Western undertones, the provocative social commentary – it holds its own as a standalone film. Less of a sequel than a natural progression, Goldstone feels like a sharper, fully realised vision; a suspenseful, thrilling and enormously engaging riddle with compelling characters wrapped up in a darkly comical and cryptic package.
In Jay Swan, Sen has created Australia’s own Man With No Name; an endearing and iconic hero that Aaron Pederson inhabits with full enthusiasm. It’s the detective’s quiet, gruff demeanour and aura of clashing reluctance and determination that leads to his charm. He’s a drunken mess when we meet him this time around, and it’s clear that some undisclosed demons are his bulky burden to bear. Like Clint Eastwood’s legendary gunslinger, his beguiling heroics beat at the heart of each adventure – I’d gladly follow him into another.
And in Goldstone itself, Sen has created a town that feels alive and familiar, and not just because it could be somewhere a short drive away from us – it’s a fully functioning (if foreboding beneath the surface) society. Twin Peaks frequently springs to mind throughout, and it’s amusing to note just how many favourable comparisons to the cult classic it draws – Twin Peaks meets No Country for Old Men in Wolf Creek, if you will.
More than simply a storyteller and filmmaker, Ivan Sen’s been hailed as an artist, and it’s not hard to see why; on top of writing and directing Goldstone, Sen also handles cinematography and composing duties, and the result is an experience that looks and sounds divine. Music is used sparingly, and for much of the time the natural noises of the country form the score to great effect; when the melodies do chime in they are intense and haunting. And the great frontiers captured by Sen’s lens in the dying twilight rival some of the best shots in The Revenant – Australian cinema is on a roll, and Sen has without a doubt landed a spot on its A-list.
Goldstone is a slow burner that explodes in a breathless climactic shootout that will either set your thoughts alight or shut them down completely, but that immense sense of satisfaction will definitely stick around.
Goldstone is available in Australian cinemas from July 7
Image courtesy of Transmission Films