I Saw A Film!

A sort of rambling, no frills action thriller set in New Zealand and featuring a fictional revolution of sorts and starring Sam Neill (with two Ls) who plays Smith and Warren Oates as a callous American company commander ostensibly there to help quell the unrest.

The idea, as best as we can tell, is that a man falling apart with his family (we don’t get a lot of background about that) ends up living by himself on a remote island after giving up his car for a boat and a dog. While we’re enjoying this little man fantasy about macho maturity and overcoming hardships with fishing, we’re introduced, in bits and pieces, to a kind of authoritarian regime with storm troopers and droning voices of leaders all basically responding to calculated overt violence in otherwise overall peaceful protest. This bit looks rather familiar even in our time, and the violence appears to spark a rough showdown to silence the dangerous demonstrations.

Soon enough Smith (it seems a bit Orwellian) is roughly contacted on his little paradise island and arrested (at least they don’t shoot the dog) and tossed in a rat infested cell, after being shown a dead buddy. It’s pretty grim. He can hear people screaming and has no apparent idea of what the authorities actually want. We don’t know really what they want either. Though we can assume that what they want is his contacts, as that’s generally how you operate a violent oppression.

What the film does well is get across that sense of hopeless confusion. We know the opening violent sequence was staged to bring about the jackbooted crush of the people, so we have a vague sense that the state, with it’s torture, firearms and interrogations are clearly to be resisted. It’s not hard to cynically imagine a similar calculated criminal activity under the false-flag of peaceful demonstration. It’s not a pleasant idea.

Smith escapes and the rest of the film is spent in a spiral of running, hiding and fighting. The whole time we’re just sort of on Smith’s side, no one’s political stance is really laid out for us. Soon enough we find out that his wife is part of the resistance and we’re still unsure of Smith’s roll as he’s chased about by helicopters and rocketed by state aircraft. Are we exhausted yet?

For New Zealand this was apparently a major film breakthrough. A home grown action thriller that set a stage for many more to come, though some insist this one was never really topped.

For free on Prime! But don’t expect a happy ending!

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