Rev up your engines and load your weapons. It’s time for an adrenaline fuelled, heart pumping, descent into madness. Blood will be spilled; threats will be made and you’ll be on the edge of your seat in this white-hot Aussie thrill ride.
Tom (Luke Bracey), knuckles bloody and dripping with sweat, jumps in the driver’s seat of his work truck and speeds off. He’s making a run for his life and we don’t even know what he’s done! Tom is a deeply flawed, violent man who has done something horrible. But has he done it for the right reasons? Has whoever he has done it to deserved it? Whatever the case, his nightmare has only just begun.
As we’re trying to figure out answers to these questions Tom receives a phone call from a mysterious man calling himself an Associate (Toby Jones). Calmly, he informs Tom that his daughter has been kidnapped. If he ever wishes to see her alive again, he’s going to need to do exactly what he’s told, regardless of the cost. Tom was already up to his neck in it before this call started, so why pump the brakes now? As the night rolls on, we slowly discover what he has wrought, what he’s running from and how his life will never be the same again. But if he can save his daughter, then maybe redemption can still be found somewhere on Mercy Road.
Writer and director John Curran has had an illustrious career working between Australia and America. His films both local and abroad have received acclaim, and I admit to being a fan of much of his work before now without even knowing the man’s name. For his latest feature, he brings us something altogether different in a low budget, high octane psychological thriller.
The film feels both familiar yet at the same time, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Its single viewpoint, (mostly) single setting framework is reminiscent of a cross between ‘Speed’ and ‘Phone Booth’. However, the story and style of Mercy Road makes it so much more of a fascinating movie. It’s an emotionally charged, high tension film noir style makes sure you’re never quite sure what is going on.
We’re thrust into the thick of it along with Tom and we can’t help but feel just as confused and anxious as the character. Right as we think we’ve gathered an understanding of the situation; the rug is pulled out from under us. This is aided by Mercy Road’s distinctive visual style which sees Tom and the confines of his truck as real to the touch solid objects. However nearly everything else in the world is artificial and CGI, much like the style of 2005’s ‘Sin City’.
The outside world has a surreal quality to it enhancing the claustrophobic isolation of Tom‘s current mindset; panic induced, heart racing and sweating. There are helicopters hovering overhead, red and blue flashing lights with sirens in the rear-view mirror, and somehow things get even worse for those suffering from arachnophobia! This really is one of the most intensely visceral films I’ve ever seen and quite unlike Curran’s previous work.
Despite a sizeable cast of actors providing voice only roles, this really is a one man show. Mercy Road follows Tom for its entire runtime and Bracey gives a powerful performance as this troubled father in a race against time. You can believe that this is a man who has a long and checkered past we’re not even privy to. But deep down, he loves his daughter and all the rage and fear which drives him stems from that.
A uniquely dark movie of paranoia and wrath clashing together, Mercy Road is a captivating watch. A solid Australian film made on a lower budget but with high results, it almost demands for it to be seen more than once.