Courtesy of eOne Films
Writer/Dir: David Michôd - feature film directorial debut
Cast: James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, Guy Pearce
Reason to see: I'm been impressed with so many Australian films recently that now I'm always game to see any that are released here.
Toronto's been lucky to get some sensational Australian releases in 2010 (like The Square) and Animal Kingdom shows that this is a trend that is going to keep on giving. I also keep wanting to call it a thriller, but it isn't - it just has the amazing intensity of a thrilled while being a drama which is very unusual to see, especially in a crime drama.
Animal Kingdom follows J, newcomer James Frecheville in a wonderfully understated performance, as he becomes taken in by his one-step removed crime family comprised of his uncles and their mother. And it's one big, yet tight-knit family that literally serves as it's own society which cleverly showcase several roles that are played, points of view and people at different stages of the game. From the skilled veteran and family man Barry (Joel Edgerton) to drug happy Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) to the softer, quieter Darren (Luke Ford) and the all-fearing Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) and at the top of it all is Janine aka Smurf, played by Jacki Weaver, whom even though is a fictionally character I'm going my best not to refer as J's grandmother.
You can see that it's one heck of a minefield for anyone to step into, even if you are family like our pal J who is family. It poses a very interesting question though of what do you do if this is your family? Do you step right up and into it? Do you model yourself after one of your uncles? With some many characters to draw on, is they anyone you'd like to be? Or, do you stick to your own guns and do your own thing? The amazing thing about the film is that it explores all of these questions and more while giving us a intense story of the family and their lives of crime to follow as well. The ensemble cast does an absolutely fantastic job shaping the roles in the family and their kingdom, that easily doubles as a seamless exploration. All of the performances are strong here, but I was completely floored by James Frecheville who resonates being so malleable that you don't know literally how he will develop throughout the film, yet he is neither naïve nor soft but rather still forming. It's a fascinating and natural performance that draws the viewer in to his life and this chaotic world.
Truly a stellar film filled with amazing talent and compelling characters, Animal Kingdom is a must see. Beautifully shot, carefully crafted and takes total ownership of a very intense view of family and crime. I already want to watch it again.
Animal Kingdom made my 2010 Perfect List and James Frecheville made my New Faces and Ones to Watch List, although I'll be keeping a keen eye on the everyone involved here, especially director David Michôd and actors Sullivan Stapleton & Luke Ford. Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton are already firmly planted on my permanent 'always watch' list.
- Director's commentary - feature commentary with writer/director David Michôd it seems a bit odd to say for a crime/drama but this is a really sweet audio commentary from first time feature film director David Michôd, you can really feel the depth of knowledge and vision of the film as a whole right town to the specific tone of a particular scenes or the specifics of casting. Also notes many challenges of shooting, but I loved how also talks about the positive response the film has received and how that's positively effected the people involved.
- Making Of (1 hour 11 minutes) extensive and very well made making of that includes film clips, interviews as well as rehearsal footage, behind the scenes footage, pre & post-production and Sundance 2010 footage. I really enjoyed the rehearsal footage, Sundance footage and the interviews discussing the vision and history of the film, process and challenges of the film along with character and family dynamics in interviews with writer/director David Michôd, producer Liz Watts, actors James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford, Guy Pearce & Laura Wheelwright plus production designer Jo Ford, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, editor Luke Doolan. Strong focus on the family, characters, the process of working together and working styles, the look, feel and tone of the film and the casting process.
- Interviews (18 minutes) brief interviews with cast and crew, that includes some crossover footage from extensive Making Of as well as new footage. Interviews include writer/director David Michôd (5 minutes), and actors Guy Pearce (3 minutes), Ben Mendelsohn (2 minutes), Joel Edgerton (3minutes), Jacki Weaver (2 minutes), James Frecheville (1 minute), Laura Wheelwright (1 minute), Sullivan Stapleton (1 minute) and Luke Ford (1 minute), on the themes of the film, their characters, working together and the process.
- Behind the Scenes (3 minutes) nice, succinct behind the scenes that's very much an arms length view style of various interior and exterior scenes, plus some director/actor interaction as well.
Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I own it
I highly recommend it to fans of drama & crime films
Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews
© Shannon Ridler, 2010 - 2011
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - August 13, 2010
Luke Ford (Darren), Sullivan Stapleton (Craig), Ben Mendelsohn (Pope) in Animal Kingdom.
Photo Credit Tony Mott Courtesy of eOne Films All copyrights Porchlight Films 2009
James Frecheville (J) in Animal Kingdom.
Courtesy of eOne Films All copyrights Porchlight Films 2009
Guy Pearce (Leckie), James Frecheville (J)
Photo Credit Narelle Sheean Courtesy of eOne Films All copyrights Porchlight Films 2009