After the spectacular Red Billabong director Luke Sparke has once again created a local sci-fi film in Occupation. This time though Sparke elevates the standard with outstanding performances, a familiar yet different and engaging premise combined with mind boggling visual effects that deliver one of the most solid and entertaining Australian films in recent memory.
Occupation opens in a small country town following footballer Matt (Dan Ewing) who is recovering after a head injury and comes head to head with rival Jackson (Charles Terrier.) In another story line father and daughter Peter and Isabella (Temuera Morrison and Izzy Stevens) are travellers who get stuck when aliens invade. These individuals must come together to form the Resistanc e after an intensely thrilling survival scene that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The plot itself presents many overused beats and while this could be a cause for complaint, having it tackled from a fresh angle and with a local Australian flavour really does present it with fresh eyes. Not only the language and actors, it is also reflected in the setting and visual effects which are far above any previous Aussie film in recent memory. The use of light through the invasion is a visual feast and is complimented by the horrifying design of the alien creatures themselves.
This is the second outing with Sparke and Dan Ewing and Sparke definitely drives a leading and charismatic performance. Ewing is really cementing his place as leading action sci fi guy for Aussie films. Similarly the character arcs for Morrisson and Stevens are given time and their relationship is one of the highlights of the film. Similarly Jacqueline McKenzie has a role as an army colonel showcasing her range and strength as an Aussie icon. Another standout performance goes to Stephanie Jacobson whose role as Amelia could have been the token girlfriend evolves into a strong and charismatic leader.
This year we have been barrel rolled with an onslaught of alien invasion, disaster and superhero films from the U.S. and while the thought of seeing more destruction on screen may deter you from wanting to watch another one, I cannot recommend this one enough. While it may seem like the reviewer thing to do to encourage Aussie films, I can honestly hand on heart say that you will get so much enjoyment out of this film and is definitely suitable for the whole family.
Sparke is nothing short of a filmmaking genius whose dedication to making big budget and high quality Australian films needs to be celebrated and commended. Occupation is in my opinion, the stand out of his career so far and the best news is that a sequel has already been greenlit. Make sure you head out and support this film, not only because it is Australian, but because it is a quality local film with incredible talent behind it who are propelling talented filmmakers, actors, set designers, costumer, make up and special effects into an epic production. It is extremely rare for us to give a full 5 stars to a film but herein is the exception to that rule. Masterpiece of Australian cinema is the best way to describe this film, we would love to know your thoughts, please come back and comment below or via social media what you thought about this film.
Occupation opens nationwide Thursday 12th of July.
Review by Alaisdair Leith