Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. Australia, 1982. McElroy & McElroy, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by C.J. Koch, Peter Weir, David Williamson, based on the novel by C.J. Koch. Cinematography by Russell Boyd. Produced by Jim McElroy. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Herbert Pinter. Costume Design by Terry Ryan. Film Editing by William M. Anderson. Academy Awards 1983. Cannes Film Festival 1983. Golden Globe Awards 1983. National Board of Review Awards 1983. New York Film Critics Awards 1983.
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).