Force of Nature: The Dry 2

The Australian thriller The Dry is one of the best of its kind in the past few years. (Seriously, go rent it. You’ll be glad you did.) Now there’s a follow-up called Force of Nature: The Dry 2. I hesitate to call it a “sequel” because this is a standalone story that doesn’t tie into the events of the original, aside from having the same protagonist. Writer/director Robert Connolly replicates the tone and flashback-heavy structure yet goes in a slightly new direction. The film isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, but it's good enough that I’d eagerly sit through a third installment.

Eric Bana returns as federal agent Aaron Falk. He and partner Carmen Cooper (Jacqueline McKenzie) are called in to help find a woman who disappeared in the Australian bush during a business retreat exercise. It’s not a case they’d usually work, except that the missing woman, Alice (Anna Torv), is an informant providing them with information about her crooked boss’s money laundering operation. Force of Nature intercuts the search for Alice with flashbacks revealing what happened on the hike, where she clashes with her boss’s wife, Jill (Deborra-Lee Furness). Additional flashbacks show an adolescent episode in which Falk’s mother got lost in the same bush.

That multi-layer storytelling can be slightly confusing in spots, although the pieces do all click into place the longer the movie goes on. If anything, the thread about Falk’s mother could have been cut. It’s basically here to replicate the personal pain angle that heavily infused The Dry.

Otherwise, the search for Alice provides plenty of satisfying drama. Resentments among the female hikers come to a head several times, and the tension between Alice and Jill suggests long-standing mutual suspicion. Physical dangers present themselves, too, from poisonous spiders to raging rapids. Force of Nature also delves into an interpersonal grudge involving Alice and her colleague Lauren (Robin McLeavy) that has to do with their daughters. The tense dynamics on the trek are consistently gripping.

Eric Bana once again does outstanding work. Even though his character is not the sole focus this time, he brings a strong sense of humanity to the role, inferring how the incident with his mother gives Falk extra empathy for what Alice might be going through. On a secondary level, the story has a conflict between Falk and Carmen. She accuses him of caring about busting Alice’s boss as much, if not more, than finding the lost woman. Bana brings nuance to suggest that she might have a point.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 has a gloomy atmosphere that makes the bush feel like a hostile place where you definitely wouldn’t want to get trapped without a map. That, Bana’s forceful performance, and an intriguing central mystery add up to a film that will satisfy fans of The Dry and hopefully bring new converts to the series.


out of four

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is rated R for language. The running time is 2 hours.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan