Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week 115: High Ground
To conclude my monthly study of Australian Westerns, I decided to rent the latest one I’m aware, a 2021 release (at least stateside). In many ways, it has a lot of shared DNA with the film I reviewed weeks ago, The Tracker, and also my favorite film a few years ago, Sweet Country. These movies follow both white and black characters in the Australian outback, focus on the hunt for a black character accused of wrongdoing, and wrestle with racism. Of the three, Sweet Country remains the most effective while High Ground shows a lot of promise but ultimately disappoints.
Ironically, I felt it was the white characters in this journey who were the most under-developed whereas the Aboriginal characters felt fully realized. I think the focus was placed so much on those characters, who are fantastic, that the filmmakers forgot to concentrate on the motivation of the white soldiers. This includes Dylan Baker, an actor I’ve always liked and who could have had a career high performance here but the script and direction does not do his effort justice. Ultimately, I felt the actions of these white men to be confusing and often one-note.
There are some incredible moments in this film, especially the haunting portrayal of violence. However it misses the mark big time. Ultimately my greatest satisfaction while watching was Jack Thompson, a legendary Australian actor in a late career performance and as good as ever.
Seen on Amazon.