DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Rogue - DVD Review



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The output of Australian films, compared to the rest of the world, is a very small amount. In fact, the Australian Film Industry has seen something of lull in the past decade, and even with the influx of Hollywood productions such as Star Wars and Superman Returns the output of Australian films has been minimal. Usually when a true ‘Aussie' flick does land on screens, it's a small budget ‘funny' or a think-piece indie worthy entries for the most part, but almost always commercially insignificant. For horror and adventure films - like most of the world - America supplies Australia with that type of entertainment... at least until Greg Mclean showed up with Wolf Creek...

Two years on and Mclean has just unleashed his sophomore effort: Rogue, and - just has he did with Wolf Creek - delivers the world an Australian film that preys on fear that anyone around the world can relate to and be drawn in by.

Once again set in Australia's Northern Territory, Rogue tells the story of Pete McKell; a world-weary American travel writer sent to ‘The Top End' to partake in a crocodile watching river cruise. The cruise captain Kate Ryan (Rhada Mitchell) takes McKell and a boat load of international tourists off course when they see a distress flare. In no time they find themselves stuck on a small island that will disappear - come high tide and at the mercy of a man-eating crocodile that has just rendered their boat useless and chowed-down on the first of them.

Mclean's straight-forward, no BS approach to storytelling continues in Rogue. This is a simple tale of man against beast, and doesn't for one minute pretend to be anything else. Influenced heavily by Jaws (just look at the theatrical poster) within the first two minutes you know what world you're in and exactly how this film is going to play out. This may be argued as predictable, but in a world where writers are at an ever-increasing pressure to throw the audience for a loop, Mclean has smartly stuck with the basics, and recognised that in this type of story simplicity is best. What is not sacrificed is that sense of dread and helplessness so crucial to a film of this type, nor the question â"How are they gonna get out of this?" The characters are as simple as the story, and again this works, with their archetypes deliberately placed in opposition to throw more obstacles in the way of their escape. The most successful element in Rogue is the same as Mclean's first film: the setting, which again places these people in extreme isolation, and heightens every fear, knowing that no one is coming to save them any time soon.

The actors deliver naturalistic performances for the most part, and this certainly adds a little depth to the simplistic characters as they'd appear on the page. Michael Vartan in particular was a smart choice not just because as an American he might bring in his own country to watch, but because he truly looks out of place throughout the film and successfully is the character any foreign eye will view this story through. Rhada Mitchell also delights as a normal women, instead of a super-woman with moments of strength, weakness, fear, she plays perhaps the most developed character in the film.

The cinematography from Mclean's Wolf Creek lens-man Will Gibson is breathtaking, with even more impressive vistas this time around, and some truly terrifying under-water work accomplished.

Mclean's direction is less individualistic this time, seeming to follow the road map of Jaws and various other films in building his tension, and in some instances he falls short. One scene involving an argument with the survivors over the dog could have been milked far more effectively, as could some of the approaches of the croc attacking... which will lift some butts off seats, but could have been better.

The score is one of the most unpredictable elements of the whole film, being a sort of screeching violins type affair, which at times helps to raise apprehension, but fails miserably in moments of action.

But by far where the film is going to stand and fall is on its star (sorry Michael/Rhada) and that is the croc... and there isn't a person on earth that can say they haven't hit a home run there in fact this is the one area they have managed to exceed their idol Jaws in delivering a terrifying, realistic, huge man-eater .

After Jaws was released, everyman and their dog went on to try and replicate it's success, and most with the success of a teenaged Dungeon and Dragon's Master nailing Jessica Alba. Rogue is like these attempts only in it's wish to homage the great Speilberg masterpiece, but unlike most of its peers has accomplished in delivering a stylish, straight-forward monster movie... and a bloody entertaining one at that.


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