Friday, November 16, 2018

The Year of Living Dangerously

Based on the novel by Christopher Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously is the story of a group of foreign correspondents who report the chaos in 1965 Indonesia where two reporters engage into an affair during the event. Directed by Peter Weir and screenplay by Weir and David Williamson, the film follows the chaos of the events of September 1965 in Jakarta at a time during an attempted coup where foreign reporters try to understand what is going on. Starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt, Bill Kerr, Michael Murphy, and Noel Ferrier. The Year of Living Dangerously is a riveting and evocative film from Peter Weir.

Set during the events of 1965 in Jakarta amidst a growing division in politics, the film revolves around an Australian journalist who goes to the city to cover the events with the aid of a Chinese-Australian dwarf while falling for an assistant to a revered British official. It’s a film that play into a lot of drama that occurs in Indonesia during a tumultuous period of civil and social unrest where foreign correspondents try to understand what is going on as they’re aided by this dwarf who knows what is happening but is also trying to carry a sense of hope for Indonesia. The film’s screenplay by Peter Weir and David Williamson is told mainly from the Chinese-Australian dwarf Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) as he lives in Jakarta and knows what is happening as he would be a guide for the Australian journalist Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) who is reporting for an Australian network.

Hamilton is just among a group of reporters trying to cover this chaos in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia as they also try to find time to relax and enjoy the local scene that include parties at other foreign embassies. When he meets Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) at the British embassy as she’s an aide for the diplomat Colonel Henderson (Bill Kerr), he is smitten by her where he turns to Kwan for help as he has information on everyone which makes Hamilton uneasy. Still, Kwan is able to get Hamilton contacts with those who are involved in this conflict but has a hard time trying to understand what is going on just as he’s being torn in his job and his growing love for Bryant. It would later get more dangerous for Hamilton as he gets a scoop that ends up being a major revelation about what is really happening in Indonesia.

Weir’s direction is definitely entrancing for many of the visuals that he is able to capture as well as setting during a tumultuous moment in time. Shot on various locations in Australia and the Philippines, Weir’s direction definitely captures an intimacy into the marches and protests that emerged on the streets as well as the scenes at the rural areas in the city or outside of the city. Weir does display that disconnect of how foreigners who live in comfortable hotels and posh embassies while the locals are struggling to get by as they live in decayed homes on the streets or near river canals with polluted water. Weir would use the wide and medium shots to capture the chaos of the protests as well as a look into the landscapes outside of Jakarta. Weir would also use the medium shots and close-ups for scenes involving the characters as they all talk about their assignment or relaxing at a party.

Even in some of the intense moments in the film where it play into that disconnect of what is happening in Jakarta and at these embassies where Hamilton and Kwan do get a closer look as the latter knows what is happening as there is an element of disillusionment that would occur in the third act. Even as the chaos really starts to come ahead forcing Hamilton to come to terms with what is really happening and face some harsh truths about the world’s influence in Indonesia. Overall, Weir crafts a gripping and haunting film about a foreign correspondent covering the chaotic events of Indonesia in the mid-1960s.

Cinematographer Russell Boyd does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the naturalistic daytime exteriors of the countryside locations while maintaining something gritty and direct for the scenes set in the streets for the day and nighttime. Editor William M. Anderson does excellent work with the editing as it uses rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense along with a surreal montage that plays into a nightmare sequence for Hamilton. Art director Herbert Pinter does fantastic work with the look of Kwan’s home in Jakarta to play into the wallpaper of pictures and such that is similar to the home of the locals which is a sharp contrast to the spacious and comfortable hotel rooms and suites that the foreign correspondents live in. Costume designer Terry Ryan does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of the colorful shirts that Kwan wears that contrasts the more posh look of some of the foreigners including Bryant.

Special makeup effects designers Judy Lovell and Bob McCarron do amazing work with the look of Kwan in its attention to detail to make the character look manly but also full of life. Sound editor Andrew Steuart does superb work with the sound as it play into the intense atmosphere of the protests and marches on the streets as well as the eerie calm for the scenes in the countryside outside of Jakarta. The film’s music by Maurice Jarre does incredible work with the film’s score as it mixtures elements of orchestral music with traditional Asian string pieces to play into some of the suspense and drama while the music soundtrack consists a mixture of pieces ranging from classical, rock n’ roll, pop, and other music from Richard Strauss, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Vera Lynn, Vangelis, Gene Vincent, and Jimmy Reed.

The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Ali Nur as Hamilton’s driver, Mike Emperio as the Indonesian president Sukarno, Noel Ferrier and Paul Sonkkila as a couple of foreign correspondents in their respective roles in Wally O’Sullivan and Kevin Condon, Kuh Ledesma as a secretary working for Hamilton and Kumar, and Bembol Roco in a terrific performance as Hamilton’s assistant Kumar who is an Indonesian that has a full understanding of what is going on as he shows Hamilton the chaos of what is happening as well as his own political allegiance. Michael Murphy is superb as the American journalist Pete Curtis who is a rival of sorts for Hamilton as he is more interested in having a good time rather than do his job. Bill Kerr is fantastic as Colonel Henderson as a British diplomat living in Jakarta who is more concerned with maintaining a social status and ensuring Britain’s influence on Indonesian politics rather than help out the people of Indonesia.

Sigourney Weaver is brilliant as Jill Bryant as Colonel Henderson’s assistant who falls for Hamilton though not initially as she is also a friend of Kwan where she understands what is happening and tries to give Hamilton a scoop which would serve as a plot point for the film. Linda Hunt is tremendous as Billy Kwan that has Hunt play a Chinese-Australian dwarf who is a guide for Hamilton while having his own personal interest for the people in Jakarta where he deals with the chaos as well as the empty promises of those in power as it is a defining performance for Hunt. Finally, there’s Mel Gibson in an amazing performance as Guy Hamilton as an Australian reporter covering the events as he’s torn in his job and his love for Bryant where he is forced to see some of the realities of what is happening instead of providing an angle for those with influence.

The Year of Living Dangerously is a phenomenal film from Peter Weir that features great performances from Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt. Along with its gorgeous visuals, Maurice Jarre’s haunting score, and its look into an unruly conflict seen from outsiders trying to make sense of everything. It’s a film that play into the chaotic events of mid-1960s Indonesia and its attempt to stray from the influences of the Western world seen from those who unknowingly created that sense of civil disobedience. In the end, The Year of Living Dangerously is a sensational film from Peter Weir.

Peter Weir Films: (3 to Go-Michael) – (Homesdale) – (Whatever Happened to Green Valley?) - (The Car That Ate Paris) – Picnic at Hanging Rock - (The Last Wave) – The Plumber (1979 TV film) - Gallipoli - (Witness) – (Mosquito Coast) – Dead Poets Society - (Green Card) – (Fearless) – (The Truman Show) – Master and Commander: Far Side of the World - The Way Back

© thevoid99 2018


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm not a fan of Gibson but the premise of this sounds really interesting and I like Weaver. Great review!

Jay said...

Excellent review. Love the sense of urgency in this.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I'm not a fan of Gibson's politics and his lack of subtext in some of his films but I still think he's an awesome actor as this is one of his best works as an actor.

@Jay-Same here.

J.D. said...

This might just be my fave Peter Weir film. I just love the atmosphere of this film, Weir creates a real sense of place. Everyone sweats profusely in every scene. Incredible! The chemistry between Gibson and Weaver is insane and gets me every time. Weir does a fantastic job of juggling the personal and the political, creating a very intimate character study.

thevoid99 said...

@J.D. Lafrance-The image of the sweats definitely helped the film as I think it's one of Weir's best though I still think Picnic at Hanging Rock is his best work.