Wednesday, October 5, 2011
This movie would probably be more meaningful to me if I were better acquainted with the history of British colonialism. All of the motivation in it is pitted in aftermath of British military campaigns, either in New Zealand or in South Africa. There are angry, disgruntled soldiers returning to the colony in the aftermath of the Boer War looking for an outlet for their rage. Acting as a counterpoint to that, there are two veterans of the same conflict – Major Carlysle (Gareth Reeves) who led British troops, and Arjan van Diemen (Ray Winstone) who fought to protect his farm – who know that there is no glory in what they endured, and that their uneasy peace is not understood by those around them.
Carlysle and van Diemen come together to find a Maori accused of murder, both interested in finding some measure of justice where others simply want blood. The prejudices against the natives are soft-peddled, but not in such a manner that makes it clear that there is little consideration for the the world the English were attempting to make their own. Both Reeves and Winstone play their roles with sly charm and reserved emotions.
The dialogue is weak. Too often characters repeat themselves to little effect. Fugitive Maori Kereama (Temuera Morrison) often shouts and shouts in two languages, but it seems to add nothing to the overall story. Some of the fight sequences seem to be deposited in just to eat up time. They still look good, but these scenes are decidedly low energy, fitting the setting and history.
I don't really know how I became aware of this film. It sort of just happened. Because my local library added the DVD to their collection on the basis of my requesting it, I knew I had to watch it. And it was surprisingly good, even with its faults. I guess I could best compare it to the film Open Range (2003) would have been without the love story tacked on. Tracker doesn't have the strong dialogue that Costner's film does, but it looks as good or better. I encourage others to give it a chance.