Animal Kingdom Review by Sam

To be honest, I feel very fortunate to have been able to view the new Australian film, Animal Kingdom. It was recommended to me via my sister, who said she had heard some pretty good reviews in regards to it. Being an Aussie film, I was naturally sceptical at first, considering the fact that a good Australian made film is a rarity, and I haven’t watched a solid one since, I don’t know, Gallipoli? Naturally, I decided to watch the trailer to see what all the fuss was about. It was intrigued, and the biggest element that pulled me in to watch was the fact it had Guy Pearce in one of the leading roles. I then decided I should watch the film, and make my own assumptions – and I’m definitely glad I did.

Animal Kingdom Poster

Let me just quickly point out that I am generalising Australian cinema when I say that a good Australian made film is a rarity. There have been loads of exceptional films brought to you from the land down under, Gallipoli, The Piano, Babe, Shine and The Castle just to name a few pre-21st century ones, and I am in no way saying that there has been a lack of great Aussie films. Rather, I am stating that there has been a recent lack of brilliant Aussie films, and Animal Kingdom is the first in a long while.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think there was one thing about this film of which I didn’t enjoy, and I hold almost every element in high regards. So with that in mind, don’t expect to read about the negatives of this film, as I can’t think of any. Here we go.

Guy Pearce in Animal Kingdom

Guy Pearce - a strong drawing point.

The biggest stand out for me personally, and I’m sure for anyone who watched this film, was by far the acting. Every single person in this film did an outstanding job with the script, and rather than being aware that I was watching people act, I felt like I was simply watching people live, that is; the actors became who they were portraying. This was superior to any Australian film I’ve watched in a long time, and it was such a relief to not have to think about that element in a negative way. I want to give special mention to the protagonist, played by James Frecheville. Frecheville was outstanding, and the fact that this film was his debut came as a large surprise to me. A quick note also to Joel Edgerton and Guy Pearce, both of whom excelled in the characters they were portraying.

Additionally, the script was superb. Let me just say that for an Aussie film, it usually lacks a strong budget, which will in turn result in the lack of top notch actors and top notch cinematography and everything else, and so the script is usually all it has going for itself. So despite the fact Animal Kingdom had some good backing (money-wise) from the government and other various sources, the script still rates up there with one of the best Australian scripts in a long while. It was a great thing to know that whilst they did have some money, they didn’t just rely on that to create something good. It was obvious that writer and director David Michod put a lot of effort into the script.

On the note of David Michod, his direction of this film was great, and the decisions he made served the plot well. His dark and gritty style gave the film a realistic tone, which was great for the pacing of the plot, and emphasised the lifestyle these characters were leading.

Australian Cinema

Click for more iconic Australian Films

Some may think that the only reason I enjoyed this film so much was because it is an Australian film and in comparison to a lot of other recent Aussie films, it was great. In one sense, I will say that this is something that has crossed my mind, and yes it is true that this film is great in comparison to a lot of other Aussie films made in the past. But, I think that I would have enjoyed this film no matter where it came from, and no matter who, or what country for that matter made it. I just wanted to point that out.

One final thing before I dish out my rating, is that I believe this could be a possible contender to bring back the Aussie films into the Academy Awards spotlight, hopefully with a foreign film nomination (yes, Australian films can get this type of nomination), or even some other, more prominent awards.

Whew, okay, that’s done, and I can now give the rating.

I give it 4.5.

4.5 Film Reels

You may be asking what it the reason it didn’t get a 5 out of 5 when all I did was praise it? Well, let me just say, when I walk out of a cinema, I know when I’ve seen a perfect film, in my own mind that is. This happens very rarely, and is a unique feeling; one I cannot describe. But for Animal Kingdom, I did not experience this feeling, hence the 4.5

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6 Comments on “Animal Kingdom Review by Sam”

  1. Neil Says:

    Great review guys, dying to see this movie even more now. Cheers

  2. Neil Says:

    Also three great Aussie films that have come out recently are:

    Candy (2006)
    Samson & Delilah (2009)
    Beautiful Kate (2009)

    Check them out if you’re keen.

    • filmstank Says:

      Yeah, I’m not saying that there have been no great Aussie films, more so a lack of.

      Thanks for the suggestions, might have to take a look at those.

  3. Dave Says:

    Dear Sam,

    I too was excited to see this film. Having said this I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Crime Drama’ genre in general- particularly of the Australian variety. I think this stems back to a confused and underwhelming viewing of ‘Two Hands’ starring Health Ledger some years back.

    For me Ben Mendelsohn was the standout performance. His awkward appearance onto the screen was something to behold- haphazardly stumbling into the house from a side door into the kitchen. This was telling of his character.

    His emotional intensity was cogent. Yet his persuasion and ferocious temperament lingered beneath the surface like a volcano, ready to erupt. His binding blue eyes were chilling. It didn’t matter if he was speaking, listening or vehemently thinking- his paranoia and presence was tangible and powerful.

    You mentioned that the script was intrinsically valuable, that it didn’t rely on a big budget to capture the audience. Whilst I agree that the script was exceptional, I’m not sure I agree on the (in my opinion) skimping on the ‘expensive drama’.

    One problem I have with the film was that the crime aspect, that being armed robbery and the like, was only present by implication. There was talk of crime and this unique underworld but the audience was left to imagine the details for themselves. Perhaps this was the intent of Michôd- but I think some more direct and graphic crime portrayal could have added to the character development. Thoughts?

    In all, I was captivated.

    Dave @ filmstank

    • filmstank Says:

      Hi Dave,

      Few questions in regards to your comment. When you said “I’m not sure I agree on the (in my opinion) skimping on the ‘expensive drama’”, what did you mean? Did you mean that you thought it looked expensive, and they did use their money for the look of the film? If that is what you meant, then you have misread my review. I didn’t say that at all. But if not, please feel free to elaborate on that particular statement.

      I also just want to say that I think too many audiences expect everything to be spoon fed to them these days. Nothing is left up to the imagination anymore, which is disappointing, as that is a great technique in films, leaving the audience to make up their minds, and fill in the blanks – which therefore leads me to say that it was a brave, and good technique used by Michôd. I feel he was saying to the audience, you guys know the deal, I don’t need to show those things. In essence, he was respecting the audiences knowledge. You may or may not agree, but I just thought I would comment on that particular part of your comment. Funnily, I never actually thought of that prior to you saying it, and even still, I’m not 100% fussed by it – nonetheless, I thought it necessary to provide a reply of my thoughts in response to your comment.

      Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the film.

      Sam @ filmstank.

  4. diany Says:

    i totally loved this movie!!!
    was supr lucky to go to a preview screening, and i was amazed at the fantastic acting.
    James Frescheville was outstanding, his hardened expression, -or lack thereof-, told everything from the beginning of the film,
    & Ben Mendelsohn, OMG!, he definitely engulfed that character
    and about the crime
    like its title “Animal Kingdom”, to me, more than their criminal careers, it was more about them as sick & twisted people and their interactions.

    it was refreshing to see a film not rely on CGI freakin’ graphics but on the story & acting.

    i would definitely like to see it again…


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