The Last Wave (1977)

Genres - Drama, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Disaster Film, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 13, 1977 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - Australia  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Exploring similar ground as Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave delves into the gap between white Australia's button-down Victorian culture and the mysteries of the land occupied by that culture. Just as a prim, flaxen-haired schoolgirl is seemingly swallowed up by the sheer malevolence of Australia's rocky landscape in Weir's previous work, so does David Burton -- a prim, flaxen-haired tax attorney -- disappear into the Aboriginal caves located in the bowels of Sydney in The Last Wave. In both films, white Australian culture, with its fixation on rolled lawns, starched whites, and cricket, seems shallow and ludicrously ill-equipped to adapt to its rough and decidedly weird surroundings. One weakness of the film is its depiction of Aborigines; though much of the narrative's tension rides on the shadowy practices of this band of Native Australians, the film itself treads perilously close to cliché and stereotype. Another weakness is the lead actor who plays Burton; Richard Chamberlain, who usually has the emotional range of a bag of hammers, manages to imitate human facial expressions with some plausibility but fails to muster the intensity that the part demands. In spite of this, director Peter Weir manages to build a mood of dread and anxiety through a deft use of striking imagery and sound design. Overall, The Last Wave is both a fascinating look at a not-too-foreign culture and a profoundly creepy mood piece that stays with viewers after the lights have gone up.