Gone (2006)

Gone follows three twenty-somethings on a backpacking holiday around Australia that all goes horribly wrong. If you’re thinking you’ve heard something not terribly dissimilar to that before, well, you’d not be wrong – see The Beach, Hostel, and especially Wolf Creek – but Gone manages to be just different enough from those movies to stand on its own two feet. Just about.

So, Gone follows three twenty-somethings on a backpacking holiday around Australia. Alex (Evans) and Sophie (Warner) are an English couple on a romantic adventure; Taylor (Mechlowicz) is an American drifter they accidentally pick up along the way: his offer of company (and, more importantly, the use of his car) is a little too alluring for a couple so far from home, and so they end up journeying together. Gradually, though, it emerges that Taylor is not as nice as he seemed; the tensions between the three of them begin to grate on everyone’s nerves, with subtle manipulations spinning wildly out of control. Tiny, deliberately plotted annoyances and provocations on Taylor’s part lead to Alex massively over-reacting (at least in Sophie’s eyes) and everything ends, as it inevitably does, in tears and bloodshed.

Though Gone perhaps falls into the trap of making its characters too paranoid too soon, so that Alex is getting aggressive before the audience is really sure that Taylor is up to anything nasty – and then compounds the problem by rather too liberally applying the ominous, creepy music to anything that moves – by the time the finale rolls around, Taylor’s transformation from well-meaning tourist to dangerous psychopath is complete. Which is no mean feat, considering he’s played by Eurotrip’s Scott Mechlowicz, who’s far too pretty to be immediately menacing. It’s probably down to him that the final claustrophobic face-off inside the car works so well, moving from darkly funny to messily terrifying in a matter of seconds. Somehow, the filmmakers managed to mix just the right amounts of gore, determination and hysteria to make this scene really threatening – it feels fresh and original, and the safe certainty that the good girl will win out in the end is actually unsettled.

Importantly, Gone succeeds where Wolf Creek didn’t in really using the Australian countryside as an integral part of the film. Instead of seeming contrived and awkward, the shots of the gorgeous landscapes meld themselves comfortably into the movie, often highlighting the complete isolation and hopelessness of the characters’ situations. There’s much less of a snide, aren’t-we-clever feel about the way the scenery is used; and it is undeniably stunning. Interestingly, too, it isn’t all the stereotypical view of Australia we’ve come to expect in films; it feels a lot more real than that.

Unfortunately, although the car scene might have been close to perfect, as the climax of an hour and a half of slow burn tension, it’s not entirely satisfactory; particularly because it doesn’t quite give us any closure on the fate of at least one of the characters. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to quite push hard or far enough to really finish the movie – Gone is a pretty short film, at only 88 minutes long, and though it does well with the material at hand, it’s hard not to want something more, something else, at the end of it all.

IMDB link

Originally reviewed for 6 Degrees Film.

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