Group of people hiking through a forest.

Film Review: Force of Nature: The Dry 2


Force of Nature: The Dry 2
Director: Robert Connolly
Arenamedia and Pick Up Truck Pictures

The 2020 noir mystery thriller The Dry currently ranks as the 14th highest grossing film in Australian box office history, and it was only a matter of time before we got a follow up. While Force of Nature: The Dry 2 may not be one of the most spectacular sequels of the summer season, it’s an intriguing one.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 takes place one year after the events of The Dry, as our protagonist, federal agent Aaron Falk (Eric Bana, Hulk, Munich) and a fellow agent, Carmen Cooper (Jacqueline McKenzie, Malignant) are investigating Daniel Bailey (Richard Roxburgh, Mission: Impossible 2, Moulin Rouge!), a powerful businessman who is implicated in a corporate money laundering scheme. A complication arises when Alice Russell (Anna Torv, The Last of Us), the whistleblower within the company, goes missing while on a corporate hiking retreat in the woods of the Giralang Ranges region of Australia. The local police start a manhunt for Russell, shrouded by the history of an infamous serial killer who used the area as his hunting grounds, and the disappearance triggers memories for Falk, as it echoes a life altering personal tragedy from his past. Falk and Cooper interview the other four women who were on the hiking trip with Russell. Each harbor secrets and were far from the best of friends, and the clock is ticking as a torrential rain storm raises the stakes as Falk vows to find Russell before it’s too late.

As a long time fan of Eric Bana, as well as a mystery buff, the Aaron Falk movies (adapted from the novels by Jane Harper) are a franchise that I’ve found absorbing and entertaining. Force of Nature is a self contained story that doesn’t require the viewer to have seen The Dry in order to enjoy it, and really doesn’t build on it in any way apart from reviving yet another tragic story from Falk’s adolescence (Aaron Falk could investigate the kidnapping of a singing frog by an international consortium of BASE jumping gynecologists and it would still somehow either tie directly to his teenage years or mirror them in some painful and tangible way). It’s a slow burn that hinges on lots of twists and turns, as well as a murky and atmospheric setting. The story relies heavily on flashbacks, as the four women recount their story of being lost in the woods. The complex relationships between the characters—as well their own backstories—are a bit convoluted, yet they are absorbing and believable. The palpable tension between these women grows stronger and keeps us constantly guessing as to where the mystery is going and who might be hiding the biggest secret of all:what happened to Alice Russell. Screenwriter/director Robert Connolly (Paper Planes, Blueback) favors deliberate pacing that requires a certain degree of patience, though his tendency to keep his films under two hours helps significantly.

While Falk is ostensibly the main character, he’s far less central to this story than in The Dry, meaning that Bana isn’t given quite as much screen time here. Bana spends most of scenes brooding quietly or asking pointed questions, and while he’s very good in the role, it isn’t quite the star vehicle that The Dry provided him. The bulk of the story is really centered around the story of Russell and her colleagues being lost in the woods, and while Torv gives a terrific performance, Russell is hard to get to know and even harder to like. Deborra-Lee Furness (Shame, Blessed) is quite effective as Jill, Danie Bailey’s wife and the leader of the hiking group, and Robin McLeavy (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is remarkably understatrd yet unmistakably memorable as the timid yet affable Lauren, who tries to be the peacemaker of the group. Sisi Stringer (Mortal Kombat) and Lucy Ansell (My Life is Murder), as sisters Beth and Bree, respectively, bring believability and depth, and Roxburgh’s calling in life seems to playing smarmy and loathsome characters, though he’s far more low key here than in his best known Hollywood films.

My biggest gripe with Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is simply that the title doesn’t work, as the rain soaked Giralang Range stands in such sharp contrast to the drought stricken village in Victoria where The Dry took place. While The Dry 2: The Wet may have been a cringe worthy moniker, at least it would have have been less misleading and clunky. These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night, though it doesn’t change the fact that while Force of Nature may not be as deep as its predecessor, it’s a smart and serviceable mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. – Patrick Gibbs

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