2020s High Ground seeks to observe Australia’s uncomfortable past (a past that most ‘colonised’ countries seem reluctant to admit they share to some extent). Tackling violence and racism towards Australia’s indigenous people head on, the film sees a young Aboriginal man, Gutjuk, team up with ex-soldier, Travis, to track down his uncle and rebellion leader, Baywara. Little does Gutjuk know that Travis was innocently part of the pack of murderous honkies who massacred his family. Despite trying to stop the massacre, Travis is haunted and blames himself. Vengeance and redemption are key themes here.
Some could argue that this is a story we may have seen before, but its setting and historical/cultural context breathes life into the narrative. One might be more interested in watching to see aspects of Australia’s history, to learn something new. Personally, I was captivated in the films first act, catching a glimpse of peaceful Aboriginal life and culture before it is dramatically interrupted. It is an uncomfortable watch because history proves that these sorts of things really happened. Sometimes in far worse circumstances and means. So needless and unfair.
By the film’s final act, you truly are rooting for Gutjuk and Travis. You feel their anger, and the injustice they face. In that sense the film succeeds in what it sets out to do, with a thoughtfulness and respect for its subjects, while not being afraid to show the barbarism of Australia’s colonial past.
While the acting is of a high caliber, Gutjuk and Travis being clear standouts along side their gruff ensemble, the real winners for me were the sound and stunning visuals. Before I’d even caught a glimpse of Gutjuk and his family, I had goosebumps – the films score really is eerily beautiful. I would recommend watching this with headphones on as I did. Matched with the striking Aussie landscape and cinematography, it really is candy for the senses.
In conclusion, this film is highly recommendable. Be prepared to be awed, angry and uncomfortable in equal measure.
Rating: R!^ Restricted to persons 16 years and over. Violence, sexual violence, offensive language and nudity.
GEEKERY rating: 4/5