Starring: James Frecheville, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton, Jacki Weaver.
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed By: David Michod
Written By: David Michod
I had been told about this film several months ago, and had been told by this anonymous person that it was their favourite film of its year. With Inception and The Social Network being released the same year I was rather dubious as to this person's suggestion. I have to say however after giving this film a watch I can completely understand where they are coming from because this film is absolutely brilliant, and I am annoyed at myself that it has taken me this long to see it.
Set in Australia revolving around a crime family, Animal Kingdom follows the story of J (Frecheville), who is taken in by his Grandmother after the death of his Mother. Whilst in the company of his Grandmother and Uncles he realises that they are involved in some of the hefty crimes that have been taking place in the community. One of his Uncles; Pope, (Ben Mendelsohn who is absolutely fantastic) is currently in hiding and the police are after him over a recent bank robbery. However instead of finding him via looking the police decide to kill his partner in order to entice him out. The only problem with this though is Pope then decides to retaliate and he and his brothers kill two policemen in an act of vengeance. After being broadcast all over the news, the police bring in Detective Senior Sergeant Leckie (Guy Pearce) to bring the Cody family in, and their first port of call is J. Once J has been interviewed though his own family turn against him in the belief that he has turned them in. J then finds himself on the run from the evil Pope and the cops, and is unsure of which one to trust.
The film is not like anything we haven't seen before but it is the way it is told that stands this film above the rest. For starters the setting being Australia really adds to the tension, especially with it being set during the time when cops were killing criminals and finding excuses afterwards. It is also interesting to side with the 'bad' guys, but also showing how the police can also be just as bad in their own way. We are actually pulled in to care for this family despite how evil they are. J especially is someone we side with despite the fact that his character has no real qualities that we can cling to. We just go with his situation and you ask yourself what you would do in his position. The film also delivers us a chilling ending, which is certainly crucial to the outcome, and a highly powerful scene in the middle that had me frightened for a good ten minutes. The dark, moody tone of the cinematography really adds to this.
The acting in the film is very good. Mendelsohn is on top, top form and it is good to see him being rewarded with roles in films such as The Dark Knight Rises as he is a top class actor. Jacki Weaver is also really freaky as the Mother of these evil brothers. She plays the part full of tension and even hints at a sign of incestual nature between her and her children. It is the performance and the way she kisses them that highlights this. She also comes out of her shell later on in the film and she grows even more into the role. These two are the stand outs of the cast but Edgerton, Pearce, and Sullivan Stapleton are also good. Frecheville has come into a lot of criticism of his performance by other reviews; however I feel they are slightly harsh. For a newcomer his performance is good and I believe it is his character that lacks personality as opposed to the actor.
Another top area of the film is the music. Even the music on the DVD menu had me gripped by what I was about to watch. Every time a piece of music kicked in I was instantly drawn into the scene. Even an image of three lions on a picture, with the central one standing proud, is racked full of tension due to the brilliant score.
There isn't much I can point out as wrong with this film. Maybe it is a shame that a top actor disappears quite early on, but this also adds more to it. I have to say this film has affected me. I can't get the creepy music out my head, or some of the powerful scenes that go with it. I haven't seen any other Australian films that have moved me quite like this, but from now on I will not be put off by them. David Michod has managed to produce a script full of believability and character building, and has also directed and drawn some excellently creepy performances by some actors who are possibly unheard of on the Hollywood circuit. Thanks to Animal Kingdom however, I think Michod has highlighted his own name, and his casts names, on the Hollywood 'to get' list.
4.5 / 5
Next film to review: DRIVE