Peter Weir’s political thriller/romance looks only better with the passing years. Tense, at times intriguingly opaque, with gathering suspense both personal & political, it’s enthralling moviemaking. Mel Gibson, consolidating his rep after a breakthru in Weir’s GALLIPOLI/’81, is the ‘pup’ foreign correspondent in mid-60s Indonesia, arriving in Jakarta just as President Sukarno’s grip on the country starts to give way to general anarchy & fast-rising Communist factions. A babe-in-the-woods next to the seasoned/cynical reporters lounging at the bar (holdovers from some Somerset Maugham story), Gibson has the luck to get the lay of the land from mysterious Chinese dwarf photographer Linda Hunt (stunning) who both helps & controls him, and the other kind of ‘lay,’ plus inside info, from British Embassy attaché and possible spy-gal Sigourney Weaver, also stunning, but in a different way. (With a jawbone beneath the polished glamour Samson’s ass might have envied.) Spectacular period flavor on convincing recreated locations make for an electric atmosphere even when the narrative turns cloudy & garbled with complication. Gibson, particularly in light of later, coarsened efforts, is a revelation; nearly matching Hunt’s one-of–a-kind gender-bending triumph. It’s a puzzle, and a loss, to note that Weir has only made eight films since this, and none since 2010's little seen THE WAY BACK.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/LINK: While it’s always silly to expect much in the way of discernment from Oscar® noms (especially when a film under-performs commercially), it still comes as a shock to see what was singled out over this. At least, the very deserving Linda Hunt made the cut. http://www.imdb.com/event/ev0000003/1984/1
DOUBLE-BILL: To see just how easily this sort of romance/political thriller can go wrong see Richard Lester’s CUBA/’79 (w/ Sean Connery/Brooke Adams) or Sydney Pollack’s HAVANA/’90 (w/ Robert Redford/Lena Olin).