Title: The Year of Living Dangerously
Country: Australia, USA
Language: English, Tagalog, Filipino, Indonesian
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Director: Peter Weir
Music: Maurice Jarre
Cinematography: Russell Boyd
“It is all opposite intensities” uttered by Linda Hunt’s Oscar-winning gender-switching role Billy Kwan in this romanticised screen adaption of C.J. Koch’s eponymous novel, THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY is a stereotypical westernised POV (intrigued but distanced from all recherché curiosity) of the far east poverty and political uprising, set in Indonesia during the notorious 30 September Movement in 1965, a coup attempts to overthrow President Sukarno, but the bloodbath is tacitly eschewed in this picture.
At the helm of Australian auteur Peter Weir (PICNIC AT THE HANGING ROCK 1975, DEAD POETS SOCIETY 1989), Mel Gibson plays Guy Hamilton, a rookie Australian journalist is sent for his first oversea assignment in Jakarta and ditched by his predecessor for any informative briefing. But unlike his fellow foreign correspondents, who are exploitive of the convenience of sex service and feeling apathetic about the country except when their own interest is concerned, Guy bears a compassion for the tribulation of the impoverished and he is a dashing go-getter, which is why, Billy Kwan, the local photographer of Chinese and Australian descent, gets close to him and offers him rare opportunities to interview political big shots in PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia, the communist party of Indonesia), he finds a kindred spirit in him and the pair has fashioned many front-page articles from then on.
Billy introduces Guy her friend Jill (Weaver), a British Embassy officer, who will depart in three weeks, things go deadly romantic in any case, they mutually fall for each other, meanwhile the political situation slips and Billy is devastated when a boy he adopted dies, he becomes irate towards Sukarno’s govern, and meets his demise heroically. Linda Hunt, the diminutive character actress, seizes her once-in-a-lifetime chance to render Billy a full blossom (a ultra-meaty role indeed), a supporting actress win is a cinch for her, actually one big blemish of the film is that it would be much more daring and fascinating if Billy is the lead in the storyline, there are so many unspecified back stories of her which would be far more arresting than the corny love affair between Guy and Jill.
However, it is not to say, Gibson and Weaver are mis-cast here, on the contrary, Gibson exudes his mega-star quality in a very earlier stage, his risk-addicted, devilishly handsome charisma overlaps Guy’s defects in character; Weaver, first time embodies herself as a sex symbol in a foreign land of a paucity of Anglo-Saxon femininity, it is Ripley meets Mad Max, and they are in love!
Funny thing is Jill flirts with Guy about it is often too melodramatic in his articles, and in the same way it can be referred to the film itself, the death of Billy (always the most sympathetic one should be immolated for the sake of empathy-evocation), the lingering shots of Indonesia’s destitution, children especially, on a cinematic level, it is too perfunctorily and conveniently designed, and considerably it is just not Weir’s best offer.