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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


previously titled YOUNG ONES

Dir. Jake Paltrow

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

A perfect marriage between the wild west and near future sees a combination of old fashioned story telling and the modern fad for dystopian future. When a drought has caused water to become the most precious resource on the planet, politics form to control what is left and for farmer Ernest (Michael Shannon) defending his farmland and children from the bandits hunting water is a bitter taste in the mouth of previous owner Flem (Nicholas Hoult). Fighting for the rightful ownership of the land, Flem goes about setting things right at the cost of those around him and it’s only a matter of time before Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Ernest's son, discovers the truth.

Mashing together the cowboy antics of the wild west with cyborgs and robotic donkeys, ‘Bad Land’ is a subtle blend of action packed genres that resorts to refining a great story of desperation and revenge rather than the full blown special effects blockbuster that usually cloud the sci-fi genre. Together with some truly great performances from Hoult and Smit-McPhee, BAD LAND is a splendid example of how to do emotional storytelling that pulls in its audience from beginning to end.

At times, it feels like a picture postcard with a visually stunning appearance and minimalistic scenery that mirrors so well with the story it wants to tell. There is no byzantine fixation on a multitude of tales, instead focusing on delivering a hear tbreaking tale of a son’s devotion to his father that ends in a brutal end that no child should have to see, let alone coordinate.

It's hard not to be impressed by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens' ability to capture nothingness in such beauty. Long shots of barren dessert and later the contrast between the gushing grass with the harsh terrain of the drought all captured as if they were part of a picture postcard. Whether it's the country music, an iconic shot of a motorcycle gearing up against a band of horses or a donkey hoarding bottles of water across the emptiness, it all works towards the simplicity of this feature that shares its screentime with a disabled mother given the ability to walk through robotics.

With Hoult starring in the outback's other big film released that year, this couldn’t be further apart and yet gives a tantalising glimpse of Hoult as an actor and a sign of things to come. Take away the action, the huge need for special effects and complex storylines and BAD LAND gives a simple tale that proves that good performances can make a film.

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