FOUR STARS Henry is down on his luck. On an overnight bus ride, a stranger offers him some work.
DRAMA AUSTRALIA #THESTRANGER
Starring Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris
A Joel Edgerton film is always rewarding and this psycho-thriller co-starring Sean Harris (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) is exactly that. Written and directed by Thomas M. Wright (creative behind the sensational ACUTE MISFORTUNE), THE STRANGER has pedigree written all over it.
Henry (Harris) meets a stranger on an overnight bus trip from Queensland. He’s down on his luck and the man offers Henry some work. ‘I don’t do violence,’ he says. The man assures him it won’t be necessary and introduces him to Mark (Edgerton) who’ll be his minder while Henry learns the ropes.
One of the many, many visual clues and references in this utterly absorbing story is the similar appearance of the two men. For a start, both have grizzled beards and long hair - coincidence? Unlikely as it soon becomes clear that Mark isn’t the man Henry thinks he is, and Henry himself is courting a dark secret. Is that the reason Mark, and the stranger before him, have befriended the man? If so, why?
Wright has had major success with this kind of nuanced, heavily layered and laden thriller. He knows how to get under your skin and eat away at your sense of comfort until you’re left feeling in need of a long shower. Or a drink. Probably both. THE STRANGER is no different. It is derived from the bleakest corners of human behaviour but to Wright’s credit, he neither sensationalises nor cheapens that experience.
THE STRANGER is based on a true story, one that appears to show deep respect by the filmmakers. However that doesn’t mean it’s a straightforward account as Wright piles anxiety onto a story that twists the knife deep into the characters’s psyche. Mark’s vividly distorted dreams don’t make for easy viewing.
Wright is given considerably support by Simon Njoo’s crisp editing, Oliver Coates’ atmospheric score and Sam Chiplin’s mesmerising camera work. Collectively they create a meaningful background against which Egerton and Harris get to work - and they don’t disappoint. Collectively the crew have ensured everything has purpose, there’s nothing spare or leftover in this film, with all behaviours, especially those of a large support cast, feeling utterly credible. Too much so perhaps. The result is some mighty powerful if disturbing storytelling.
Make time to see THE STRANGER at a cinema ahead of its international release on Netflix. You’ll be glad you did.