- Hamish Hart
High Ground (2020) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
AUSTRALIAN films have seen a rise to prominence as of late due to the lack of international features being released in cinemas. Stephen Johnson's most recent endeavour is the latest to benefit from this double-edged sword of a situation, gaining high praise and gross thanks to its nationalistic setting and international actors.
But does High Ground hold the high ground of Australian cinema, or does it have a case of irony by falling to the bottom of the barrel?
Years after the unprovoked death of his family, Aboriginal man Gutjuk (Jacob Junior Nayinggul) teams up with Travis (Simon Baker), an ex-solider who was in part responsible for culling majority of Gutjuk's family, to track down Baywara - one of the most dangerous criminals in the Territory and uncle of Gutjuk.
The two begin to learn a lot from one another, but when the truth is revealed that Travis aided in killing his family, Gutjuk begins to question whose side is worth fighting for and where his true family lies.
The stage is set early on for this revenge thriller, allowing for further development of the impending conclusion. However, revealing the truth prematurely caused Travis and Gutjuk's relationship to flounder in a state of stagnation and felt like wasted potential by the time their inevitable conflict arose.
High Ground saw multiple actors/actresses being introduced to the industry, with the film's lead, Nayinggul, proving he can stand firmly next to first-class actors such as Simon Baker and Jack Thompson.
National actors such as Ryan Corr and Carien Pistorius are fantastic in their criminally-underutilised roles as a religious husband and wife who attempt to abstain from partaking in the conflict, but are continually dragged back to provide words of wisdom to Travis and others.
Primarily shot at Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, High Ground's vision for wanting to showcase the gritty landscape of Australia is achieved with flying colours; lingering shots atop of cliffs, fast-paced and raw action came together to give the film a true sense of realism that can only be provided through a time machine.
There are two words which best describe High Ground - wasted potential. Although everybody delivered exceptional performances throughout, the story felt like fodder to the, albeit, luscious scenery and compelling landscape of Outback Australia.
High Ground isn't a bad film as I definitely enjoyed my experience, but when you consider that the film could have been an Australian revenge thriller for the ages, High Ground ultimately failed to stand high and mighty above the rest, and will likely fade into obscurity like many before it.