The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - Australia, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Nick Sambides, Jr.

It would be wrong to say that The Year of Living Dangerously made stars of Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver; it solidified their stardom and also showed them to be fine actors. As Guy Hamilton, a young Australian radio journalist on the make, Gibson shows soul behind a pretty-boy face and magnetic eyes. His Hamilton is all modern ambition and quick answers until he runs into what director Peter Weir portrays best: the collision between new and old societies. Gibson's greatest success comes when Hamilton endures the pain of deciding whether to air a story that would expose British attaché Jill Bryant (Weaver) as his source. His pain is compelling; in later roles (particularly the Lethal Weapon series), Gibson undergoes torture to achieve the same effect, a pattern that repeats itself in almost all of his successive roles. Weir portrays the Indonesia of 1965 as a place where Western blandishments ring especially hollow against the poverty, misery, and oddly spiritual life. He uses an unearthly score and bright, contrasty colors (especially the blue shirt Gibson usually wears) in the glittery, sterile palaces of the Sukarno regime to contrast with the dirt and darkness of Indonesia's poverty. And in Linda Hunt's Academy Award-winning performance as photographer Billy Kwan, Weir has a great voice for the despair that the poverty engenders. But the movie's grasp of Southeast Asian politics isn't as strong as the romance between Gibson's and Weaver's characters. As in Weir's later Witness, the romance stays in mind long after the civics lesson has faded.