For all the chaos the COVID-19 pandemic caused to the film industry, one of the greatest success stories was that of the Australian film 'The Dry'. Grossing an impressive $20 million at the Australian box office, it was not only incredible for the time of release but for Australian cinema in general, becoming the 15th-highest grossing Australian film ever. 'Rams' and 'Penguin Bloom' also released during the pandemic yet only grossed $4 million and $6 million respectively. Even director Robert Connolly's next film, 'Blueback', released in January 2023, only grossed $2 million, further proving just how successful 'The Dry' was. With all the success and Jane Harper's book having two sequels, a new Australian franchise was born and the second book 'Force of Nature' was quickly put into production. But similarly to the first film, delayed from an August 2020 release to a January 2021 release, 'Force of Nature: The Dry 2' was met with a similar fate. Originally due to release August 2023, it was pulled only a month prior due to the Actors Strike. Now it's finally time for the Aaron Falk mysteries to head back to the big screen.
After the events of 'The Dry', Aaron Falk (Eric Bana, 'Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers', 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword') is pulled back into another missing persons case. Five women taking part in a hiking retreat report one of the women, Alice (Anna Torv, 'The Daughter', HBO's 'The Last of Us'), as missing. Alice however is linked to Falk, helping him secretly investigate the company she is on a retreat with, and the mountain range they are hiking in also links Aaron to his past.
'Forces of Nature: The Dry 2' is not only a bad title but a very bland and forgettable follow-up to a really stellar Aussie flick. I just wasn't hooked on the mystery like the first; the connections to Falk's past in particular felt very forced and only weighed the film down. In 'The Dry', his personal connection to the case is a core driving force to solving the mystery, while here it feels like padding and never really connects to the overall narrative. The five women are all written so unlikeably and I understand that's part of the point (it's the whole reason they go on the hiking trip) but it made this film tougher to get through. There was so little to grab onto and made the overall question - what happened to Alice? - far less captivating because I do not care about her.
I just wasn't hooked on the mystery like the first; the connections to Falk's past in particular felt very forced and only weighed the film down.
The film, similar to the first, cuts between Falk's investigation, the hiking trip before Alice disappears and then Falk as a child. Again, this bloats the film and most of the time the three parts never really blend into each other well. The clues we are discovering in these scenes don't link with what Falk is finding out and most painfully the childhood flashbacks just have so little to do with everything else.
This is by no means a bad film but living in the shadow of what a surprise 'The Dry' was does hurt it. With that film, most audiences went in with little expectation, but now those expectations have been introduced and it's tough to meet them. There are some positives though; the film is beautifully shot and the setting move from the outback to a wet mountain range gave this such a different look and the cinematography was truly exceptional. Even if I didn't find the characters that likeable the performances are great - these are some of Australia's top talent and they are all doing a fantastic job here.
'Force of Nature: The Dry 2' has many problems, beyond that awful title, but I hope it's not the last we see of this team. 'The Dry' was such a success - and not just financially - so I wanted this to be the start of a good new Australian film series. It's really exciting to see an Aussie release get this much marketing and backing in 2024; it's such a rarity and I hope we see that continue outside of this franchise.