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STRANGERLAND: 2 STARS. “lacks the spark to keep the story interesting.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 3.37.32 PMAll work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All atmosphere and no urgency make “Strangerland” a dull film.

Catherine and Matthew (Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes) and teenaged kids Tommy and Lily (Nicholas Hamilton and Maddison Brown) are struggling to survive in the remote (and fictional) outback desert town of Nathgari. Dad, the town pharmacist, is less than enthusiastic at living in Strangerland despite his wife’s attempts to fit in. Fifteen-year-old Tommy is an insomniac who goes for late night walks while his older sister has caught the eye of the local boys.

One morning, on the eve of an immense dust storm it’s discovered the kids didn’t sleep in their beds. Or show up at school. By nightfall a search has begun, led by policeman David Rae (Hugo Weaving). As the weather intensifies so does the hunt as Catherine and Matthew struggle to cope with their grief and sense of loss.

“Strangerland” wallows in the grimness of its story. The undeniable splendour of the cinematography—the landscape and the dust storm are spectacular in their rugged, terrible beauty—plays in stark contrast to Kidman’s hysterical performance and the anxiety inducing score by “True Detective’s” Keefus Ciancia. This could have been a welcome addition to other Australian lost-in-the-wilderness flicks like “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “Walkabout” but lacks the spark to keep the story interesting.

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