Film Review: High Ground

Travis and Gutjuk on horseback

The term ‘western’ conjures up stories of cowboys and ‘Indians’ from the wild west of frontier America. However, it’s a genre of film which has captured the imagination of directors around the world, most notably in Italy. In Australia, makers of ‘meat pie’ (or kangaroo) westerns have taken the tropes and cliches of the genre and transported them to the outback. High Ground is a great example of an area of filmmaking which has produced great thrillers such as Sweet Country, The Nightingale and Mystery Road over the last decade.

Travis (Simon Baker), a sniper in the army during World War I, now works as a policeman in Northern Australia. During a routine operation he loses control and an Aboriginal community is slaughtered. The only survivor is a young boy called Gutjuk who is subsequently raised on a mission. 12 years later he’s (Jacob Junior Nayinggul) called upon by Travis, now a bounty hunter, to help track down his uncle who is terrorising settler communities. The white man must face up to the horrors of the past in order to seek his redemption.

High Ground is in impressive western which delves into the troubled history of post-colonial Australia to create a tense and powerful drama. Stephen Johnson’s film journeys deep into the bush to try and exorcise the demons of the past. The cast are good and the story is handled well, but it never shirks the brutality and ignominy of the time. Using the rugged majesty of the outback as its backdrop, High Ground is an entertaining and intelligent thriller.  

High Ground is released on Digital by Vertigo Releasing on 12 July.

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