Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 88%
IMDb Rating 7.6 10 556

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November 24, 2021 at 03:38 AM

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Johnny-the-Film-Sentinel-2187 5 / 10

Early Review

I understand that the film itself is already controversial because of 1996's devastating Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. And this film: tried shedding some light on an emotionally disconnected alien in Martin 'Nitram' Bryant. The main character is so far removed from his own feelings you actually get the frustrations of being is his shoes; and then you realise the frustration also comes from the lack of clear motivation besides the whole 'society is bad' mantra people now associate with the film Joker.

I typically like 'lone wolf' stories (Taxi Driver, Joker and the Man With No Name Trilogy come to mind), but this one tried humanising a suicidal mid-20s sociopath who joked about the massacre saying that Port Arthur and Antartica had this in common: 'Minus 35'. I'm not kidding; he actually said that to a security guard whilst in court.

This film tries to leave you impacted by all that in can ONLY imply instead of showing you or telling you (vaguely) what the hell it's trying to go for dramatically. In Joker we got he visceral AND psychological sense of the world hating/rejecting the main character but Bryant here: it's difficult to tell what the hell kind of emotions you're supposed to feel besides pure dread they adapted a story trying to humanise a man with the emotional depth of a Neo-Nazi.

I understand the intent they were going for with this film; I just strongly disagreed with it during its near-2-hour runtime. 2.5/5 stars: solid direction needing a firmer story and general script.

Reviewed by hunter-friesen 8 / 10

Physically Devastating & Emotionally Enriching

*Watched at Cannes 2021 World Premiere*

The career of Australian director Justin Kurzel, still very much in an early phase, has been one filled with drastic ups and downs. Kurzel broke onto the scene in 2011 with his feature debut, "The Snowtown Murders," which played as part of the Cannes Critics Week. That film's success immediately gave him the confidence to helm a much more violent and haunted adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth", with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the lead roles. He also was given the promotion of competing in the main competition of Cannes.

After that film's critical success, Hollywood came knocking as he was offered, and accepted, to direct the big-screen adaptation of the popular video game franchise "Assassin's Creed", which allowed him to reteam with Fassbender and Cotillard. However, Kurzel wasn't able to make the leap into studio filmmaking, as the film was a critical and commercial bomb. He tried to recompose himself a few years later by going back to his roots with the Australian true-crime-thriller "The True History of the Kelly Gang." The relative success of that film didn't prompt Kurzel to return to the big studios, instead, he has doubled down on his newfound career path with "Nitram", which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film tells the life story of Tasmanian native Martin Bryant, who eventually was responsible for the largest massacre by a single person in Australian history after he killed 36 people at Port Arthur in 1996. From the very start, Bryant was beset with mental problems that made him act aggressively towards others and hold little concern for human safety. After he was sentenced to life in prison (where he remains to this day), Bryant was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and deemed to have an IQ of 66, roughly the same as an eleven-year-old.

The title of the film (which is Martin spelled backward) comes from the nickname Bryant was given by childhood bullies, further hindering him from forming any human connections. American Caleb Landry Jones plays the titular character with brilliance, showcasing how far someone can go down the rabbit hole. Jones has made a small name for himself by playing supporting parts as sleazy weirdos in films such as "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "Get Out". In his first major leading role, he has knocked it out of the park. He produces the fear one gets from a horror movie villain while still bringing enough authenticity to fit the film's grounded tone. His win for Best Actor at Cannes was well deserved, and some Oscar buzz should be in order.

Also within the cast is frequent Kurzel collaborator Effie Davis, who plays Bryant's much older companion Helen, who lives alone in a rundown mansion with fourteen dogs and several dozen cats. Bryant and Helen formed a connection based on their status as social outcasts, which Jones and Davis are able to explore. Their interactions together are awkward and fractured, and never answer the question of exactly what kind of relationship they share.

Anthony LaPaglia and Judy Davis, both of whom are superb, portray Bryant's parents, who have differing perspectives on how they should keep their son safe. LaPaglia prefers to give Bryant a bit of freedom in hopes that he will figure out the world for himself, while Davis feels that he is incapable of doing such a thing and must be kept on a short leash.

Making a biopic about a country's worst human offender brings with it a lot of trap doors, such as vindicating the perpetrator or glorifying the harm that they caused. Thankfully, Kurzel avoids those errors as he approaches the film with a matter-of-fact style that only wants to illustrate how this event was allowed to happen. Abandoning the flashy style he is known for, Kurzel lets the actors and simple camerawork tell the story. I was reminded of Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" while watching the film at its world premiere. There is not one singular grand answer as to why this happened and how it could have been stopped, simply because there isn't a one-size-fits-all response. All we can do is look back on what happened and see what can be done for the future, which Kurzel doesn't seem to have much hope for as his postscript explains how the gun laws enacted as a result of Bryant's actions have not been properly enforced, opening the possibility of this happening again.

Justin Kurzel's "Nitram" was one of the best films out of the Cannes Film Festival as it explores a real-life tragedy with both grace and severity. While my body hated the experience of watching the film because of the stiff muscles I was left with due to the intensity, my mind was left with a better understanding of this dark chapter in human history.

Reviewed by waltermwilliams 9 / 10

Confronting and Deeply Disturbing Horror Biopic

25 years after Tasmania's Port Arthur Massacre comes the 2021 film "Nitram", directed by Justin Kurzel and based on Martin Bryant's life.

Whereas most movies close with actual footage or photos of the true people involved in biopics this film opens with real life TV footage of Martin in a burns unit, as a child, after an incident involving fireworks in the 1970's and sets the macabre tone for what is to follow in one of the world's deadliest shooting sprees.

While not an entirely accurate biopic it is a confronting and deeply disturbing one dealing with the subject matter of Australia's worst mass murderer.

Texan actor Caleb Landry Jones spent his Covid Quarantine time on arrival in Oz studying the Aussie accent by watching countless local Soap Operas including "Home and Away" and "Neighbours" worked.

For his portrayal of Bryant, Jones won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor and is serious Oscar bait.

At times his performance reminds me of Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker", where the deadly menace lies just beaneath the surface in his smile and his eyes.

Kurzel's own wife Essie Davis plays Bryant's love interest/friend Helen Harvey (heiress to a share in Tattersalls).

This movie asks the question could she have been his first victim.

If so the body count is even higher, because even his own fathers suicide looks suspiciously like murder.

Maurice Martin is wonderfully acted by an overweight Anthony LaPaglia, while his wife Carleen is marvellously brought to life by Judy Davis (no relation to Essie).

It's a movie that highlights mental health issues in our community without making you feel entirely sympathetic for Martin.

He was famously diagnosed with Asperger in prison.

"Nitram" is a truly creepy, horror film in the truest sense of the word because what happens is horrific, but we are spared any blood and gore on the big screen.

Children and adults are cruel, but none of it excuses what happened at Seascape B&B or Broad Arrow Cafe on April 28, 1996.

The good news is Martin Bryant is serving 35 life sentences concurrently plus 1,652 years, without parole, to be served for the term of his natural life.

The bad news is that despite reformation to gun laws in 1996 under the John Howard Government, in Australia today there are more guns than ever in circulation.

This could happen again, unless something drastic is done to control gun ownership.

Everyone must see this movie to understand the events leading up to one of the most heinous crimes in Australia and how we can stop history repeating itself not only in Oz but everywhere.

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