Sweet Country (2017) Poster

(2017)

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8/10
Built with imposing emotional depth, Sweet Country is an angry discourse on racism.
LloydBayer9 December 2017
In the ever widening divide between colour, cast and creed, director Warwick Thornton takes the traditional setting of a frontier western and builds the foundation for a brutal and angry discourse on racism and savagery. But unlike a typical Hollywood western, the savages here are not the indigenous people who fight for the preservation of their ancestral land-dwelling. Set in 1920s Australia, and just a few decades after independence, Sweet Country seeks to echo the haunting wails of the founding fathers of modern Australia.

Both haunting and tragic, the film is politically provocative and poetically proverbial in narrating a dark era when Australia's justice system was still in its infancy. On the run for killing a cruel white settler, Aboriginal Sam (Hamilton Morris) and his wife have little chance of escaping the law, especially during a time when lawmakers were the laugh of the town. It doesn't help either that a frontier soldier (played by Bryan Brown) is out for blood as a self- proclaimed lawman. Sam's only aid is his charitable employer and preacher Fred (Sam Neil). But there's something about the whole incident that Sam and his wife have kept to themselves and the only way for any sliver of redemption is to get caught.

Although deliberately paced (the very first scene is a symbolic pot on the boil), the final showdown is suspenseful but also gut- wrenching and ultimately heartbreaking. An Aboriginal himself, Thornton (who is also the cinematographer) uses gorgeous vistas of the Australian landscape to juxtapose the ugly nature of this story with the sheer beauty of his land. And amongst all this beauty there is suffering, trauma, barbaric colonialism, and absolute disregard for human life. As impressive as the visuals is Thornton's meticulously composed storytelling and it's a power structure with imposing breath, width and emotional depth.
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8/10
a visually stunning outback tale with a message that resonates today
CineMuseFilms23 January 2018
Using the Hollywood label 'western' for an Australian outback drama casts an odd cultural shadow over the achievements of Sweet Country (2017). At a Q & A preview in Sydney, director Warwick Thornton told the audience "people think in boxes so we need to call it something". However, 'western' is an awkward box for an Australian tale of such contemporary relevance and cinematic beauty.

Set in 1920s outback Northern Territory, the narrative is deceptively simple. Indigenous farm hand Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) and his wife are lucky to work for god-fearing landowner Fred Smith (Sam Neill) who believes that all are created equal. Fred allows Sam to help his unstable war-veteran neighbour Harry March (Ewan Leslie) for a few days but it sours quickly and Sam kills Harry in self-defence. The rest of the story tracks the hunt led by Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) through treacherous country that is home for Sam. Eventually white man's justice must be faced.

This is an outstanding film for many reasons. In terms of visual impact, it is stunning. The cinematography shows a deep love of country with majestic panoramas that dwarf humans. Rich red colour palettes evoke the hot, dry, heartland of an ancient land. The camera tracks seamlessly from wide-screen images to small details like a balletic sand scorpion or a cold hard bullet being loaded into a chamber. Scene after scene, we find symbols of the conflicted relationship between white man and nature; there are no words more jarring than to hear Indigenous people being referred to as "black stock".

In terms of aural impact, silence has never been so beautiful. It takes some time into the film before we notice there is no musical score, and none is needed. As Thornton put it, when you stand in the desert there are no orchestral violins to tell you what to feel. Silence conveys the outback. You hear the rustle of leaves in the wind, the sound of a flowing river, horses' hooves pounding the ground, and most confronting: the sound of a heavy chain being dragged across desert sand, manacled to the black hand of a fleeing Indigenous youth.

The casting is excellent. Bryan Brown and Sam Neill are almost cameo performers in their roles as hard-core outback characters. The emotional centre of the film, however, is Hamilton Morris. He speaks little and emotes even less. His face is a wide, impassive, deeply etched, and painful canvas that speaks of Indigenous people's dispossession and barbaric mistreatment by armed invaders. Views will differ over whether the Johnny Cash cowboy ballad during the credits makes this more or less of an Australian story. This powerful but disturbing film reminds Australians of our history and need to reconcile with the past.
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9/10
A must see
AdamChapman19967 February 2018
This movie is an absolute masterpiece of Australian cinema. The way it tells the story is nothing short of amazing. The Cinemaphotography is a joy to take in, it really shows the Australian outback in all of its glory. This film is a must see for anyone looking for a film that will impact your life in a very real way. This is real cinema in all of its glory
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9/10
A great movie about the Australian sins of the past
ayoreinf30 July 2018
I've read here two reviews by Australians, one hated the film, the other loved it. I've seen the film in the company of two other Australians, they both loved it. Yes, I agree to the point made, by the hating reviewer: the movie does judge the past according to modern morals and sensibilities. But this would be a valid point if we were discussing an academic paper or a movie that was made back then. This is neither it's a movie about Australian past that was made at the present and it feels so true it hurts. It hurts because the only way we can see it is with our modern eyes. Saying people thought differently back then, is true but it's beside the point. We, the viewers are here and now and that's the only time and place we can watch it.

So lets speak about other aspects of the film: cinematography, acting and story telling are superb. But I liked most of all the editing, with these tiny flashes forward and backward throughout the movie, flashes we can fully understand only when we've seen the movie all the way through. Please do, I think you won't regret it.
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8/10
Rivetting
mhodder-4388426 January 2018
I saw this film on 25th January with my granddaughter who is Aboriginal. Most fitting on the eve of the last day of freedom for Indigenous people. A very moving film that brought home and really reminded us of the cruel and widely hidden history of this country. Should be compulsory viewing for all high school students and used as a starting point for students to explore and examine their local Indigenous history. I hope to be able to buy a copy in the near future.
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10/10
Those With/Those Without Power In Early 20thC Australia - Excellent Movie
fredgfinklemeyer16 February 2019
02/16/2019 A storyline of fiction that mirrors much of what early 20thC Australia was really like for the Aboriginals. For an even better ""True/Real Life" Aboriginal movie watch "Rabbit Proof Fence" a movie told in the first person by three young Aboriginal girls (now old women). In the closing credits the ones still alive tell the viewer of their life back then and today. A really heart wrenching story of how heartless human beings can be when given power by the state to control the lives of the weak (without power or representation. Bon Appetit
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6/10
Barren
jadavix30 December 2018
It's tempting to say that I wanted to like "Sweet Country" more than I did, but I have used that line before, and I think it should kind of go without saying: of course I wanted to like it. I don't watch movies wanting to hate them.

However, the line seems relevant in this case because "Sweet Country" starts so promisingly. It's well shot and located, and features Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, and the long absent Matt Day (remember him?).

Trouble is, the movie seriously lost me in its middle section. I stopped paying attention to it. It needed more... something on the screen to focus on during all the silence and loose activity. It was overlong, like every other movie made these days.

The plot is, of course, about the trial of an Aborginal man who kills a "whitefella" in self defense. Something similar has already been done, and better, in "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith", which is a masterpiece. This one is too long and empty, like the part of the country it's set in.
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8/10
great story, great plot, great cinematography
hsb_45520 December 2018
This movie is very well made, specially very well cutted, very clever use of flashbacks and flashforwards takes you wisely through the story that never lets you guess the end and get bored, got a bit of dark history of Australia as well, last but not least beautiful cinematography and unique locations make this movie a must see, strongly suggested
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9/10
The best Australian film in years
bruce-moreorless13 February 2018
'Sweet Country' is the best Australian film in years, and the best Australian "Western" ever. A little slow-paced maybe, but that's half the point. The characters and events portrayed in the film seem totally authentic, a sense that is heightened by the use of non-professional actors for the indigenous roles (Hamilton Morris, Natassia Gorey-Furber, Gibson John). The professional actors (Bryan Brow, Sam Neill, Matt Day) are also excellent. I wasn't a big fan of 'Samson & Delilah', but Warwick Thornton has really nailed it with this one. This is the type of film that Australian directors should be making. My only concern is that the film may not get the audience it deserves. I saw it during opening week in an Sydney inner-city cinema on a discount day, and the theatre was almost deserted. A discouraging sign. The reluctance of many Australians to acknowledge the realities of past and present race relations in their country may keep local audiences away. It is possible the film will play better overseas. Whatever, 'Sweet Country' deserves to be seen and is highly recommended.
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7/10
Bitter Sweet!
spookyrat128 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This is a hugely watchable film with superb cinematography carried out by indigenous director Warwick Thornton no less. The film is called Sweet Country and Thornton fills the screen with beautiful, though sometimes harsh vistas of what most people would think, is a barren unforgiving landscape. But it is both sweet for the cattleman on their stations and sweet for the aborigines, the first occupiers of this country, though now frequently confined, as we see later in the film, to tribal reservation areas. However the land is no longer that sweet for indigenous man Sam Kelly, who towards the end of the first act kills a "whitefellah" in self-defence, whilst protecting himself and his wife, forcing him to go on the run, through his country.

Thornton also secures some terrific performances from both his indigenous and non-indigenous cast. Hamilton Morris is memorable as the chief fugitive Sam, whilst Natassia Gorey Furber offfers great under-stated support as his wife Lizzie. Sam Neill as their fair, but reticent and religiously inclined homesteader/ employer is always impressive. Dominating this feature, though not appearing until the second act is Bryan Brown, who as the local senior law enforcer, looks and feels like a force of nature, implaccably driven to capture and force a legal (or otherwise) reckoning with the duo on the run.

Unfortunately whether due to budgetary constraints or otherwise, the central narrative is somewhat predictable and lumbered with a few fairly substantial contrivances. It may have suited the story but I would respectively submit that even 90 years ago, cattle stations in the Northern Territory of Australia were way too large to be run, as we see here (in several instances) by a single whitefellah boss, a dog and a couple of blackfellah employees. And I can't recall seeing any cattle on these stations ... at all! The stations were way too large in area for one owner to pop over to another's spread (again, as we see in several instances) riding a horse at a virtual walk! The reality is that the distances, between properties (even today) were vast. This was the very area after all and around this time, that the "Flying Doctor" program came into being, as a means of providing medical treatment over great distances.

At the end of the second act Sam makes a decision to return to "civilisation", in spite of successfully evading the pursuing posse, due, we are told to his wife's pregnancy. Why? If the story timeline is correct, she can only be in the first month. I know that the film makers wanted to provide something of a twist to the innately predictable nature of the story up till then, but that suggestion, at that juncture, is quite baffling. They had plenty of time just to keep going.

Still, despite some weaknesses in the overall narrative, I can understand why both foreign and domestic markets will be drawn to this thoughtful Australian award-winning western. There is much to like, appreciate and reflect upon, while watching it.
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8/10
A Western with an Aussie touch-
tm-sheehan2 April 2018
When Australian cinema is good ,its usually really good and this one can hold its head high in any cinema in the world. Director Warwick Thornton who also made Samson and Delilah has excelled again with this Aussie period Western set in 1929 in the Northern Territory. It has the feel and ingredients of a Western , the Lawman, the fugitive, the posse, even the Saloon gal and the town vigilantes but Its much more than an action Western and even reminded me at times of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird set in the Australian outback. The stars are Hamilton Morris as Sam the hunted fugitive Aboriginal stockman and Bryan Brown as Sergeant Fletcher the hunter . Sam Neill as the minister, is also terrific in his role , showing the only compassion and acceptance to the indigenous population in the entire movie and Matt Day as the judge is also impressive. The cinematography is superb and at times resembles an Albert Namatjira landscape, which is understandable but it takes great skill to capture the light and timelessness of the outback landscape, it should wow overseas audiences . After the dismal film we saw yesterday this was a joy to watch and what good cinema is all about.
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9/10
A brilliant study of humanity, not just racism
eyeintrees26 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know if the film maker meant to delve deeper into our psyches than just showcase racism, or not. But this film, in its slow camera panning does just that. Aggression. The innate aggression that sits inside humanity drawn from our fears, our skewed beliefs, our ignorance and our sense of entitlement, aggression is what I got from this film. It doesn't matter to most people how we treat animals, gender or people of other colour but the issue is an all round one, not separate in any way or sense although it's taking people a long, long time to join the dots.

From the terror of a bullock newly castrated without anaesthetic (of course that's the 'normal' way in all cultures, but look at that animal's eyes and see the lack of knowing why it's just been abused,) to the passive nature of horses being run around deserts with ugly, yelling, angry and foolish men barely supplying them with enough water, to the still very wild men performing rituals and ready to capture a black man or woman of different tribe and probably kill them or enslave them, to the white bar maid, enslaved in her own way and miserable yet possibly unaware of anything more than searing unhappiness, the broken, trapped black men and the boy who do whatever it takes to survive the bewilderment of white man's world, the post traumatic madness of returned soldiers who have fought in other men's wars and gone quite mad and the ready rape and exploitation of black women who can't find their voice.

The aggression portrayed brilliantly and the subsequent shutting down/fear/rage/finger-pointing/ignorance and lack of acceptance/kindness/compassion does not make this feel long, or boring or stupid, as some reviews are quick to mention, I suppose in the high hope that Australia's history might be portrayed in ridiculous spaghetti western fashion.

Everyone, every single individual in this movie is unhappy. They work on a hard land, their lives are bare and soiled, they never wash and their ability to communicate is close to nil. Don't be put off, however, it's worth the watch if you know that it has a point. And it does. Sadly, to this day, much of this behaviour, only now we take showers, is highly prevalent in Australia, whether Australians like to believe it or not.

The ending is most apt. Indeed, too many people in this country still have no idea who Aboriginal people are and they still behave either ignorantly or moronically toward what they perceive are our First Nation peoples.

This film is an important study of how the separation here is not allowing us to heal as a nation or to move forward into a culture of more than football and beer, but to remain sadly, and I hate to say this, trapped, not entirely but on a large scale, in a kind of immature blundering that stops us claiming greatness as a nation and as collective people who can remove their very, very long term racist issues. This is further fostered by our politicians, who keep this land in a permanent state of divide and conquer. Australia is a fantastic nation but it is lame and limping. This movie declares, if you care to see it, some of wreckage that white settlement has left behind.
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4/10
Stagey fable fails to convince
aegoss30 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Sweet Country. The title comes from how, near the end of the film, one of the white characters describes the tribal land he has crossed. It's a pointed choice of title, the whites have no concept of being interlopers, conquerors, of any kind of relationship existing between the aborigines and the land. They are wrapped up in their cultural stories, and the aboriginal characters are looking on in bemusement, not understanding what is happening as it is outside the terms of their own story.

I suspect this film will trigger acrimonious debates. Some will say that it understates the brutal and destructive nature of the white takeover. Others will claim that it demonstrates the essentially benign, if unequal, relationship between white and black, and that while bad things inevitably happened, good things did too, in spite of the actions of a few bad men. The film does sit on the fence rather, trying perhaps to be historically fair. At the beginning there is a blackfella whitefella balance, imperfect, but maintained. This is upset by the arrival, and this is not a spoiler as it is right up front, of a returned soldier mentally damaged by his experiences on the Western Front. This is historically valid, although he is moving onto an existing property, while generally the post war soldier settlers were given new, empty blocks and a period of supplies.

The story is quite simple, and mostly predictable, in the sense that 'at this point either a or b happens', and the option that keeps the ball rolling is the one that happens. There is only one real 'didn't see that coming' surprise, and it has no direct bearing on the story line, though it does clarify a relationship ambiguity. There is a town, with a hotel. The landlady (Anni Finsterer, I think) is a striking and intriguing character, I assumed she would play a significant role, but she doesn't. Neither does her daughter. Perhaps they are emblematic, there is a hint of that near the end, if you choose to read it that way. This is typical of the film, placement of elements that don't do anything much, except exist.

The telling is chronological with a flashback, a number of 'flash forwards' and some noises off. The 'flash forward' device, of a split second, shows an event that will come later, generating an apprehension that bad things will happen. It may be that the intention is to lend weight to an apprehension that turns out to be mistaken. Either that or it was felt that the story was too boring and needed some help.

While the production looks to my inexpert eye to have taken trouble over period detail, the world depicted is incomplete and inaccurate. There are properties, worked by one white and two or three blacks, situated quite close to each other, people just ride over, which is highly improbable for the Northern Territory. Victoria or Tasmania perhaps. There is no indication of what they are doing, no cows, no sheep, no activity other than the construction of a fence, and the existence of a small melon bed, both of which are plot devices. In reality a property at that time would have supported a small tribe, or mob or whatever, of aborigines, supplying them with flour, sugar, tobacco, and other useful goods, in return for a pool of workers, male and female. These workers would not always be the same people, other duties, hunting, ceremonial and so on, taking priority. Until a judge declared this illegal the setup worked. After that the number of aboriginals employed dropped off, as that kind of regime didn't suit them. The director, Warwick Thornton, is from Alice Springs, I assume he knows hows how it was back then, but I remain sceptical.

Coincidentally or otherwise, the film of We of the Never Never was on TV the other night, and the contrast with Sweet Country is stark. We of the Never Never is, I would say, the better film by far, even though it was toned down from the book for a family audience. The book itself was cut before publication, presumably the truth being too ugly. The film does give a fairly realistic portrayal of day to day life on a Northern Territory station, as far as I can tell. This is where Sweet Country falls down, the environment it shows is purposeless, nobody has a role, they are all, essentially, extras. Even Sam, the main character, exists only so that things can happen to him. So who is the Protagonist? Fate? But events unfold mechanically, there is no Deus ex Machina, except conceivably at the end, and that's a stretch.

I can't fault the acting, the bush setting, some of the cinematography. But what we see is in essence a strip cartoon of illustrative tableaux, akin to the 'mystery pictures' of the early twentieth century, strung together to form a story. In a way it reminds me of McCabe and Mrs Miller, a brilliantly made but depressing Western, but with the difference that what happens is perversely dysfunctional but somehow inevitable. In Sweet Country it's a set-up, like dominoes falling.

There are two distinct locales in the film. There is the 'built environment' - homesteads, the town, the saloon - and the bush. The former, even when evidently on location, very much staged, set-like, reminiscent of old TV cowboy serials, seemed artificially lit, airless, confined. The latter, the bush, was wide, clear, sharp, naturally lit, mostly in South Australia. The two were filmed and directed quite differently, the bush sequences creative and alive, the other stolid and perhaps deliberately archaic.

Am I missing something? Is Sweet Country so clever and referential that it goes right over my Pommie head? And why do I feel someone is trying to sell me a pig in a poke?
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8/10
Clever story of hope and tragedy
robertemerald9 March 2019
When a good cinematographer gets behind a movie landscapes reveal all their beauty and possibilities, and movies become as much about art as about a story. Such is the case here. The story itself is a very real example of what aboriginals in Australia must have suffered for decades. As such it is a most important document. The story is more than that though, and is a very sober and insightful look at the depth, or lack of depth, in people's characters, both for the oppressed and the oppressors. And it has some surprising moments, is genuinely authentic, and leads us to a very real hero. Fantastic performances by all the cast, this is a very fine example of Australian film.
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8/10
Visually Stunning.
SameirAli26 March 2018
December 8, 2017 Gala Screening, 14th Dubai International Film Festival.

Sweet country is a Crime Drama happening in the 1920's in Australia. The movie is basically on the racism of those days. A black slave kills a white man, in self defense and had to run for his life.

The Director and Cinematographer being the same person did a marvelous job. Though bit slow, the beautiful visuals will let you watch the movie throughout. Costume design is also another great plus.

An interesting movie to watch. #KiduMovie
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10/10
One of the strongest films I have ever watched.
diane-3420 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Diane and I watched this movie this afternoon and were the final two people to leave the theatre. We are both migrants, and that may have clouded our judgment about the film; I believe that many people went as soon as the film ended because they were unsatisfied with what they had sat through; just a passing thought.

I thought as I wrote in the early review that it was powerful; the script was sharp, the acting matched the writing and grittiness of the NT Outback contributed hugely to the overall effect. Wallace's costume design added mightily to the grittiness of an already strong film.

If pressed as in a Film Class I am not sure what this film is about. It surely is about race because of the confrontation of the people in the movie who regard skin colour as paramount. It touches on our modern concept of feminism, education and money and finally the rule of law and how far it can extend. It is so good that Australia makes films like Sweet Country because no one else will do certainly not with the brilliance of this film.
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6/10
Racism and injustice in the outback.
deloudelouvain23 August 2018
There is no doubt in my mind that this was the way things were happening in the early days in the outback. The white man considering the Aboriginals as their slaves with no rights whatsoever. In Sweet Country they couldn't portray it better. Luckily it's not like that anymore, or at least not as bad. It's a good story, well shot and with a good cast. The 'black' shooting the 'whitefoalks' and the whole story around it oozes racism and injustice. It's a bit predictable as you know that when there is racism involved there will be injustice. The movie is a bit slow but the beautiful sceneries compensate this. It's a movie worth watching once.
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8/10
We Are All Frail and Fallible Humans
EthelredBusybody26 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I was impressed with this movie and think it was because it was quite different from all the other Australian movies I have seen. Yes, it was a little slow at times as one other reviewer has said, but I was not bored and I think that the slowness in some places was intentional. It took me a little while to "get" the presentation of the flashbacks (and in one case a premonition?), but this didn't spoil anything for me.

I thought all the acting performances were very good. Sam Neill was great (as always) and I was very impressed with Hamilton Morris. What he doesn't say, speaks volumes. Bryan Brown's performance was also good.

Everyone in this story is trying to find their way in life as best they can and many, if not all, have had trauma of one kind or another which goes a long way to explaining their actions. "Conflicted" is probably the best way to describe several of the characters.

There is quite a bit of violence in this movie but it's not gratuitous. It is balanced with scenes of affection and genuine humanity. There is also subtle humour, which may be lost on some folks.

I wish that there could have been a happy ending, but I guess that would have been unrealistic.
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4/10
Very slow and boring
jillsand-117 February 2018
Yes the outback can look magnificent in the shots, but for the main, considering I'm an Aussie anyway, that's not enough to keep me interested in watching a slow moving drama. I have just gotten out of the theatre half an hour ago so it is fresh in my mind. Very little dialogue and specifically from the main aboriginal characters, very slow responses to questions given to them which sort of made the whole process of watching it seem even slower. The plot had a turn at the end that was ridiculously illogical and you felt there needed to be further explanation to finalise the movie, but there wasn't. I found that frustrating, although I know some people like being left in the lurch in movie endings. The soundtrack only came on in the end credits and although I didn't stay to the very end, the first song sounded like Johnny Cash. Definitely some gory aspects as the story revolves around the injustices of the aboriginal people in the 1920's. The movie had the look and feel of 'Rabbit Proof Fence'. I would have liked to have given it a higher rating but script issues, especially in regard to the young aboriginal boy, have given me no other option. I can't fault the actors. They were doing what was expected of them. It's the script that has major flaws.
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4/10
Weak and boring
felicity-113 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The only thing that rang true was the fact that Sam was eventually killed. As that was definitely what I expected. Everything else seemed inaccurate for the time. It was so painfully slow I won't bore you with the details as others have covered it in their reviews.
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2/10
Predictable and dull
ricabailey-1801424 March 2018
Theres one reason to see this film, and only one reason...to see the landscapes. . The film itself is uninspiring, tedious, predictable, cliche and overwhelmingly dull. If you were unaware of what happened in Australia's history then maybe you will find this interesting. But if you are an educated person then its doubtful. The only redeeming feature is the scenery (and some of the actors). But as a story its rubbish.
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10/10
A brutal Australian western filled with beauty and terror
glenaobrien16 June 2018
The Australian western is a genre all its own and Sweet Country is the finest example of its type. Warwick Thornton's direction and the cinematography (credited to Dylan Rivers and Thornton) are outstanding, as are all of the lead acting performances. The influence of John Ford can be seen in the foregrounded figures silhouetted in doorways against the harsh sunlit landscape but this is a country all its own. Shot in both Central and South Australia, the sweeping outback landscapes rival anything shot in a Monument Valley western. The Western genre may have originated in America but here it transcends those origins to tell us a quintessentially Australian story. And it's a bloody, brutal, and tragic one.

Hamilton Morris plays Sam Kelly, an Aboriginal man charged with murdering a white man, who goes on the run from the authorities. The fact that his name is Kelly and that one of the white character is a Fitzpatrick (one of Ned Kelly's adversaries) seems hardly coincidental. When the locals gather in the street for a screening of The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) puts an end to the proceedings, angered that they can enjoy a film that glorifies an outlaw. The casting of Brown as Fletcher is perfect and his experience on the hunt for the fugitive Kelly is a highlight of the film. When he recites the Anzac pledge 'we will remember them' over the body of the sadistic rapist Harry March a chilling comment on Australian nationalism is made. The white man's rituals must trample over the black man's rituals. Never mind his brutality, March was an Anzac and is eulogised as such while the constant dehumanising of the Indigenous characters in the film offers not the slightest degree of respect or even basic decency. The exception is the missionary Fred Smith (Sam Neil), for once a minister who is portrayed not as a figure of ridicule or a symbol of colonisation but as a very human and compassionate figure. His rendition of 'Jesus Loves Me' during the hunt for Kelly is the only light moment in an otherwise bleak and harrowing tale of dispossession, hatred, and violence.

The Aboriginal people living on the traditional lands into which Kelly and the search party must go are a threat both to the white men and to those Aborigines who have lost touch with their traditional way of life. These are no cliched 'noble savages' either as they are also capable of rape and murder. Matt Day as Judge Taylor tries to bring white man's law to bear on the situation and, though sympathetic, shows little understanding of the cultural gap involved in putting Indigenous people who have lost touch with their own ceremonies into the dock and compelling them to answer questions from a person invested with the authority of the crown. With little understanding of either 'lore' or 'law' such witnesses can offer little even in their own defence. Unsurprisingly, the film has a tragic ending and the Rev Smith's final question 'what hope does this country have?' is one we still find ourselves asking a century later.
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7/10
Visually Impressive, Riveting, Yet Very Pretentious!
AhmedSpielberg996 August 2018
The movie has a familiar story and simple dialogue, and this is not a problem by any means, yet it's technically impressive. Sweet Country is a visually stunning film. The cinematography in this movie is similar to Mudbound's, but it's even more beautiful! Actually, it has the best cinematography of the year, so far! And while the movie looks poetic, the same goes for the storytelling. It reminded me of Days of Heaven. As a matter of fact, you may feel if you're watching a Terrence Malick film, except it's more fast-paced.

The similarity between Sweet Country and Malick's movies don't stop there. As Warwick Thornton used symbolism in Sweet Country in a way that resembles Malick's use of symbolism. By that I mean the use of allegories and symbols in a beautiful way that feels literary or poetic. Unfortunately, the use of symbols in Sweet Country often feels superfluous, and completely unnecessary.

Sweet Country is masterly edited, and I think that what makes it very watchable, and often enjoyable despite its poetic style that may indispose some people.

Thornton used intercut flash-forwards and flashbacks heavily. And while sometimes they help us understanding some events that happened, or will happen, therefore build tension, they often seem like nothing but artistic frippery, specially when they are used to make the movie seem if it has a non-linear storytelling.

Sweet Country also should be praised for its non-sentimental approach to its message. Unlike other movies that tackle the same subject matter, Sweet Country doesn't dramatize any aspect of its story. The movie even doesn't have a soundtrack, and that makes it feel more realistic. The movie relies on its bleak and dreary atmosphere to imply its subject matter and moral instead of presenting them in the usual manner.

All the performances are good. Hamilton Morris' performance is impressive because it feels genuine. Sam Neill is also very good even if his character, Fred Smith, is underdeveloped. Fred Smith is a very important character and should have been more developed, but unfortunately, it's a very flat character.

In general, the movie has some issues in terms of its characters. The movie has too many characters for its own good. And the movie tries to give almost every character its fair share of importance.

In the end, Sweet Country a movie of visuals first and foremost, it could hardly be more visually impressive. But, to be honest, it's a very pretentious work.

(7/10)
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3/10
Painfully SLOW!
tj_roberts121 January 2018
So slow you might fall asleep. Very disappointing, the plot is reasonable and there are moments that you reflect upon after watching the movie. But its like listening to a boring person tell an uninspiring simple story story across 2 hours. If I hadn't watched this as a preview at an open air cinema I would have walked out from the theatre. I doubt the 7.2 rating will last very long once this hits general release. I feel for the stars in the cast, the editing is poor. Perhaps some will view this as an arty film, I would say if it was edited to between 60 and 90 minutes it would be more bearable. Definitely better titles out there to watch during your valuable spare time. A let down for Australian productions, frankly embarrassing for our local industry!
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9/10
Bravo: Pride and Shame
geowolff29 June 2018
Kudos to writer/Director Thornton and a cast featuring Australia's finest for a searing drama. It is the kind of film that should make Australians proud. True, the film looks at a shameful chapter of the continent's history...a time of open racism. With spare cinematic techniques, no music, wide open visuals and spaces in the dialogue, Thornton tells a tale that is heartfelt, shocking and contains a grain of hope. Australians should know that citizens from other countries admire and even envy ground-breaking artworks like this film. I'm Canadian and I can attest that no Canadian film has reached this degree of cultural and artistic significance. Having lived in the US for decades, it should surprise no one that American films rarely cut to the bone as Sweet Country does. Australia may not be perfect but it is indeed a Sweet Country that confronts its past, achieves artistic originality and gives filmmakers a voice. Worth seeing, but not by those who are looking for a convential western cowboys and indians fable.
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