Welcome to the giant death trap known as Australia, whose formidable landscape plays the villain in the nightmarish fight for survival that is Outback. Lionsgate delivers the film to DVD, Digital, and On Demand on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.
In what is supposedly based on a true story, high school sweethearts Wade Kelly (Taylor Wiese: Wolf Creek series, Home and Away series) and Lisa Sachs (Lauren Lofberg: Academy series, Sunkesari 2018) head Down Under for a two-week vacation. Intending to spend their time beach-hopping along the Eastern coast, the pair end up sidetracked by personal tensions and a jellyfish sting. But when they opt to head inland to check out the iconic Uluru (Ayers Rock), the couple make a series of poor decisions that leave them tragically lost amid the savage sprawl of the endless Outback.
Clocking in at 86 minutes, Outback is a feature-length directorial debut for Mike Green (Fairytruth short 2013, Mother short 2014), who co-wrote the screenplay along with Brien Kelly (Mother short 2014). The film also features the acting talents of Brendan Donoghue (Miracle Fish 2009, High Life series) and Kym Cramp.
Roughly 81% of the Australian continent consists of what we know as the Outback, an inhospitable rangeland full of some of the world’s most venomous snakes, creepy-crawlies such as scorpions, and lots of other things you do not want to meet in the night (or day!). What a lovely place to get lost and take a stroll, right? In this fairly commonplace tale of nearly insurmountable odds, a young couple who are struggling with relationship issues seem to make one piss-poor decision after the next until they end up hopelessly lost. A dramatic struggle for survival that you could term a Thriller, Outback is well-done for what it is, though it is certainly not intended for anyone who cannot stomach the latest of Bear Grylls’ exploits.
Due to the fact that this story is almost entirely a man versus nature fight to the death, the bulk of its success rests upon the shoulders of its main actors, Wiese and Lofberg. Perhaps more so Wiese, whose Kelly propels the plot forward when Lofberg’s Sachs simply collapses. However, both actors do a phenomenal job of relaying the determination and grit, coupled with self-doubt, confusion and fear, that accompany such a situation. And by the end of their journey, they look like absolute hell, which shows their commitment to their roles.
Beyond the literal blood and dirt, for Lofberg’s Sachs, the tribulations of the tragic ordeal lead to immense character development. She begins the journey hypocritically preaching about the value of animals’ lives as she munches on kangaroo jerky, though she ultimately evolves from an ignorant and self-centered idealist to a more battle-hardened survivor. Meanwhile, Wiese gets to perform the bulk of the physical exertion necessary to display the pair’s efforts to endure. He carries and drags Lofberg’s lifeless body through the dirt, and seemingly covers far more ground than his counterpart.
Early on, he is also allowed a few light-hearted moments, and dominates many of the more emotional confessions, as well. Showing his range, Wiese perfectly embodies the man who, about to embark on an Army career, wants nothing more than to put a ring on it. Aside from this, he is also given a chance to impersonate everyone’s favorite kooky survivalist, the aforementioned Mr. Grylls.
There’s not a whole lot more to say about Outback: it’s a straightforward yet dramatic story of a couple who are forced to war with an unforgiving landscape. An enjoyable movie-going experience that demands the viewer’s empathy, the film is capped off with some gorgeous aerial shots to portray the overwhelming vastness of nature, and an eerily organic score by Justin Bell (Affairs of State 2018, Extracurricular Activities 2019) that rattles and hums across the senses. All of this amounts to a nightmarish tale that will make you think twice about off-roading, swimming, sleeping or doing pretty much anything in Australia. So break out the popcorn (and plenty of water!), Cryptic Rock gives Outback 3.5 of 5 stars.