High Ground [8/10]

In the tradition of blood-soaked westerns offering no succor, “High Ground,”penned by Chris Anastassiades and directed by the brilliant Stephen Johnson, begins and ends with death. A WWI sniper rescues a boy from a senseless white massacre of a tribe, and then years later enlists the indigenous young man to help track a renegade warrior. The plot never wastes a moment, the Arnhem land scenery is voluptuous, the atmosphere lost and brooding, the sense of wastage and treachery is almost overwhelming. As a birdwatcher, I was overcome by the persistent soundtrack of Whistling Kites and Ravens. Simon Baker perfectly suits the deadly yet kindly sniper, Jacob Junior Nayinggul does a great job as the vengeance-seeking Aborigine, and there are seriously fine acting performance by many white and indigenous actors. I kept longing for a redemptive climax, even as I knew there would be none, but the conclusion, fading out as a bird climbs into the sky, was perfect. High Ground will surely emerge as 2021’s best Australian movie.

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