High Ground (2020)

A young Aboriginal man works with a former soldier to save his family and land from the newly arrived British while tracking down a dangerous criminal.

This Australian period piece written by Chris Anastassiades and directed by Stephen Johnson is a beautiful piece of cinematography with a lot to say, but it however turns out a bit on the boring side of life. The film takes a very long time to get to anything and to get anything done, leading the viewer to just lose interest in something that is definitely interesting story, something that is almost frustrating to think about as the film has so much to offer and it just gets lost. There is clearly plenty of talent here in the writing and the direction, but it doesn’t all come together in the end in a way that is sustainably entertaining.

The cast here is stellar though, no matter if the film ends up lacking in some areas, the acting is on point. Leading the cast is Simon Baker who gives a great, nuanced performance in a low key manner that works perfectly for the story and the character he has. His work here is what will attract most people in terms of cast most likely, particularly American audiences as they are familiar with him as The Mentalist, but his is also the performance that really brings the film together. Playing the young Aboriginal man at the center of everything is Jacob Junior Nayinggul who also does great work while giving a wider range as his character calls for it. His work is central to the film even as his performance is not necessarily the one that will bring people to the film in most cases. These two performances are really the ones that pull the film together. Giving a performance that steals a few scenes while having less screen time is Caren Pistorius who is one of the rare ladies in this and gives her best.

The cinematography in this film is stunning, showing superb images of the Australian wilderness/backcountry and giving the film a look that is perfect for the story. The work by Andrew Commis is something that must be commended as it’s beautiful with some perfect framing throughout that just elevates the film far beyond expectation and makes it easy to get lost in the land on film.

High Ground is a good story that unfortunately takes too long and thus loses the interest in a few spots here and there. This leads to a film that is a bit uneven with long stretches of seemingly nothing. The performances are top notch and the cinematography is stunning, but it’s not quite enough to fully save the film. While there is plenty here that needs to be seen, High Ground will only appeal to very specific audiences.

HIGH GROUND is On Digital and On Demand May 14, 2021.