The Year Of Living Dangerously


(out of 5)

Another exceptional early eighties film about political conflict in a third-world country, this is also another golden notch in Peter Weir’s impressive career belt. Mel Gibson stars as a young, naive reporter who arrives as a foreign correspondent in Jakarta, Indonesia for what he assumes will be a dry spell of uneventful articles. He gets an unexpected dose of dangerous excitement when political instability around the reign of President Sukarno makes for a threatening atmosphere, and Gibson risks life and limb to catch it all for his employing newspaper. At the same time, he enjoys a risky affair with a diplomat’s wife (a stunning Sigourney Weaver) and befriends a photojournalist (Linda Hunt, effectively playing a man) who helps him get into places he wouldn’t have been able to access on his own. Weir took quite a great risk casting Hunt in the part, but the gamble paid off and she took home an Oscar for doing a lot more than just impersonating another gender–it’s one of the great performances of the decade and a career highlight for her (also the only time an Oscar has gone to an actor for playing a member of the opposite sex). A fascinating film, and more than a little bit disturbing as well, one that should be watched alongside Roland Joffe’s wonderful The Killing Fields (Cambodia) and Costa-Gavras’ Missing (Chile).

Australia, 1982

Directed by Peter Weir

Screenplay by C.J. Koch, Peter Weir, David Williamson, based on the novel by C.J. Koch

Cinematography by Russell Boyd

Film Festivals:  Cannes 1983

Academy Award
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Linda Hunt as “Billy Kwan”)

Golden Globe Award Nomination
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Linda Hunt)

New York Film Critics Award
Best Supporting Actress (Linda Hunt)

Los Angeles Film Critics Award
Best Supporting Actress (Linda Hunt)

National Society of Film Critics Award Nomination
Best Supporting Actress (Linda Hunt)

National Board Of Review Award
Best Supporting Actress (Linda Hunt)

Writers Guild Award Nomination
Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium

Boston Film Critics Award
Best Supporting Actress (Linda Hunt)