[Review] 'Outback' Creates an Unforgiving Atmosphere that Rises Above Your Average Survival Thriller
With the intention of finding adventure, in 2015 a naïve couple named Lisa Sachs and Wade Kelly journeyed into the Australian wilderness and their story would become Outback legend...
...Similar to other horror movies, the characters find themselves lost after their car breaks down far from civilization. The reason for the lost visitors does not come from human error, but from the misguiding directions of their GPS system. A scenario now so familiar that the details blur between fact and fiction. Bringing to the screen a brand-new writer/director/producer Mike Green casts the resilient Lauren Lofberg and Taylor Wiese to play the wayward Sachs and Kelly in attempts to create a story which combines real events and urban legends. Providing the audience with an incredibly minimal cast (but all the landscape they could possibly ask for), Outback traces the path and pain the two characters take in this survival-thriller.
Even before the young tourists reached the wilderness, the journey already took a regrettable turn because apparently, Wade proposed during the lengthy flight over from America and Lisa said ‘no’. But a failed engagement will not ruin the trip for Lisa. Wade on the other hand needs more convincing. After a jellyfish filled attempt at swimming, Lisa suggests the couple drastically deviates from the meticulously planned trip and instead the tourists should take their chances in the Outback. Obviously the two hold no solid knowledge of Australia and decide that minimal supplies are the appropriate amount of necessities when embarking into the Australian wilderness led completely by GPS.
Wade plays the stereotypical toxically masculine boyfriend who refuses to believe he could get lost in a place he has never been and assumes the hypothetical small towns will offer directions, supplies, or at least a place to charge their phones. Past arguments and the new wound of a rejected proposal make the atmosphere of the car unpleasant and the situation does not improve as the GPS continuously leads them to a non-existent destination only to reroute to nowhere. Lisa naps to escape her boyfriend’s obstinance, however without a voice of reason to supervise him, Wade pig-headedly follows the GPS. Not quite admitting defeat, Wade pulls over expecting to find a solution on foot. He insists on leaving the car to stubbornly wander around in snake and dingo infested territory and above all, ignores Lisa and any semblance of logical thinking. Instead, Wade adamantly pushes on further into the Outback. In the beginning of the film the heartbroken boyfriend exclaims he would die for Lisa, but after being separated from the car, Wade seems more dedicated to proving he knows everything.
Despite the annoying behavior of Wade which leads to the disaster, the actual villain of the film is the Outback and its endless isolation. The visual and auditory cues amplify the solitude of the situation and cinematographer Tim Nagle adds an impressive level of hopelessness and isolation. Aerial shots of the endless landscape swallowing up the couple mixed with haunting howls and deadly insect trills create an unforgiving atmosphere. The saturation of color both in the day and nighttime adds to the vast sameness of the landscape making each new day appear even more hopelessly lost than the day before.
In the genre of survival-thriller, Outback stays pretty close to the typical formula and mixes in the predictable amount of danger and pain, but the casting and filming allow for Green’s directorial debut to rise above similar films. Wade may be a frustrating character, but Wiese plays the part convincingly. Lofberg also delivers a believable performance as we slowly watch her mentally and physically deteriorate on screen. Above all, the best choice was casting the Outback as the adversary. Instead of choosing a particular beast or storm like so many movies in the sub-genre, the Australian wilderness (with the help of Green and Nagle) got to demonstrate how scary and unforgiving it can be.
I am still not sure how much of this film is based on real events, but, real or not, Outback is a gut-wrenching experience that will make you second-guess going for a hike alone in the Australian wilderness.
Head to the Outback when the film arrives on DVD, Digital and On Demand June 9th from Lionsgate.
By Amylou Ahava
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