Three Blind Mice marks the directorial debut of Matthew Newton, and it seems we can expect much more in the years to come from this son of an Australian entertainment legend.
Newton, Ewen Leslie and Toby Schmitz are three young friends and RAN officers, out on the town in their last hours before checking back in for active service – service they know will take them to the Persian Gulf. Their last tour was marred by the violent actions of their former XO, with one of this three forced to physically abuse another. Unspoken tensions among the men, and their desire to maximise their remaining free time, will lead to a night with significant ramifications for them all.
There have always been a large number of films set in and around the American armed forces, and yet the same services don’t often appear in homegrown output – the release of Stop-Loss yesterday underlines this point. Perhaps this is due to the relative disparity in the numbers of active and former members within each society, or maybe it’s just because Americans have a traditional attachment to the idea of their services. Australian participation in the invasion of Iraq and our ongoing role in the Middle East and other battlegrounds might have encouraged more filmmakers to examine the cultural effects, however, but until now this has been limited to the documentary sphere.
It is an interesting experience, therefore, to sit down to a fictional Australian film dealing with our armed forces – with scarce previous experiences with which to compete, the slate is almost completely clean. It is perhaps slightly disappointing that the mechanics of the plot could easily come from the next big US release.
This isn’t to say that Three Blind Mice isn’t an accomplished, well-performed and most-of-all satisfying film. The three central performances are excellent, with Newton in particular standing out for his multi-faceted turn. Support is strong, with Gracie Otto especially capturing the eye, and that she also edited the film is worth special mention. The film features cameo performances from almost any ‘name’ star one can think of – except Bill Hunter – and some of these are worth the price of admission alone. An extended poker sequence featuring Alex Dimitriades, Marcus Graham and Clayton Watson crackles with menace and mirth.
The gradual decline from superficial congeniality into honesty and retribution is well handled, with each character contributing enough to allow their arcs to be believable and to allow the audience to develop empathy. The film is self-contained at a mere 92 minutes, but it more than makes its point and the audience is left with a satisfied smile. Comfortably recommended, although any opportunity to see it should be taken as it still doesn’t have a local distribution deal.Rating: