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  • TBC
  • Drama
  • 2006
  • 88 mins




Ad-man Ringan Ledwidge's feature debut is Dead Calm on wheels


Where two is company, three can be a crowd. In both Roman Polanski's 1962 debut Knife In The Water and Philip Noyce's Dead Calm (1989), the tensions in a couple's relationship are stretched to their limits by the arrival of a stranger, all within the claustrophobic confines of a boat.

Noyce transplanted these themes to the open waters off Australia and refashioned Polanski's psychodrama in such a way that the two films sat well together as companion pieces. But then along comes Ringan Ledwidge's Gone to spoil the relationship by lazily rehashing the same themes without bringing anything new to the formula.

True, its actions unfold for the most part in a car in the Australian desert, and there is an unavoidable (and ultimately unfulfilled) flirtation with elements from Greg Mclean's Outback shocker Wolf Creek (2005), but Gone follows an utterly predictable road to the bitter end without so much as a single diversion or twist. If you have seen Dead Calm, very little will come as a surprise here, apart from the question of why anyone should have bothered to make a film of such grinding unoriginality.

Just flown in from England, Alex (Evans) is due to rendezvous in Byron Bay with his long-term girlfriend Sophie (Warner) for a backpacking holiday, but before he can get there he meets an American traveler called Taylor (Mechlowicz) in Sydney, and spends the night carousing with him.

The next morning Alex is glad enough to accept a lift in his new friend's car, but as Taylor begins insinuating himself into the twosome's planned trip, Alex becomes increasingly uneasy, not least because of Taylor's unwelcome interest in Sophie. Beneath the harsh desert sun, as jealousy, guilt, betrayal and madness all come scuttling to the surface, the couple begin to wonder, too late, who is really in the driving seat.

Gone's three leads offer performances of finely tuned ambiguity. Evans's Alex has some idea of what is going on, but is compromised from the start by an unfortunate act of deception. Warner's Sophie clearly loves Alex to the end, but also hints at a desire for Taylor from early on. And Mechlowicz's Taylor both conceals and embodies his particular brand of menace in charismatic self-deprecation and laid-back loucheness.

Unfortunately all this is undone by the utter predictability of the plotting. Taylor seems to be a master at manipulating everybody except the audience, so that there is never really any doubt that he will end up going all Billy Zane on his fellow-travelers. Accordingly, the only real tension here is between knowing what will eventually happen, and waiting for it to unfurl - a form of suspense better suited to tragedy, with all its doomed heroes and inexorable inevitabilities, than to this would-be white-knuckle thriller.

The film's ending, for all its visual referencing of the orgiastic climax to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), comes across not merely as derivative, but also, in its rather different context here, as rather banal and unsatisfying. At least, thanks to Ben Seresin's cinematography and some spectacular roadside landscapes, Gone is easy on the eye - but it would be a whole lot better if it made some attempt to mess with the viewer's mind.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Amelia Warner, Tony Barry, Yvonne Strzechowski, Shaun Evans, Scott Mechlowicz, Victoria Thaine
  • Director: Ringan Ledwidge
  • Screen Writer: James Watkins, Andrew Upton
  • Producer: Debbie Balderstone, Nira Park
  • Photographer: Ben Seresin
  • Composer: David Bridie

In a nutshell

You will be kept waiting for the twist that never comes in Ringan Ledwidge's derivative psycho-thriller, whose by-the-numbers plotting is as inevitable as roadkill.

by Anton Bitel

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