Force of Nature: The Dry 2 Review

Eric Bana returns as Aaron Falk in a sequel light on thrills but heavy on procedural elements.

Plot: Five women participate in a hiking retreat but only four come out the other side. Federal agents Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper head into the mountains hoping to find their informant still alive.

Review: We reviewed the Australian mystery drama The Dry a couple of years ago. We enjoyed Eric Bana’s first Australian film after moving to Hollywood and found director Robert Connolly’s adaptation of Jane Harper’s novel to be refreshing. That film told the story of a federal investigator who returns home to investigate the murder of a childhood friend, which bears a distinct connection to a crime he himself was accused of decades prior. Bana and Connolly have reunited for the second novel in the Aaron Falk trilogy, Force of Nature. Carrying the subtitle that indicates it as a sequel to The Dry, Force of Nature is a substantially different story. Shifting from a personal connection for Bana’s character to a more traditional police procedural, Force of Nature fails to live up to the first film despite solid performances from all involved.

Sharing no connection to The Dry aside from the main character, Force of Nature does not have very much that is not damp, wet, or drenched. Set within the rainforests in Victoria, Force of Nature follows Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) and his partner, Carmen Cooper (Jacqueline McKenzie), as they are drawn to an executive retreat with a participant missing in the wilderness. That missing person is Alice Russell (Anna Torv), who has been working as an informant for Falk and Cooper as they investigate embezzlement within Alice’s company, owned by Daniel Bailey (Richard Roxburgh). Theorizing her disappearance may be connected to what she was acquiring for the agents, Falk and Cooper begin to question the all-female group led by Bailey’s wife Jill (Deborra-Lee Furness). As the search for Alice intensifies, Falk begins to assemble a picture of what transpired based on the stories of the coworkers who made it back to camp.

One of the elements that made The Dry so interesting was the personal connection that Aaron Falk shared with the victims of the crime he was investigating and how his past ran parallel to it. Force of Nature relegates Eric Bana to asking questions merely to further along the story’s narrative. Falk feels some guilt in pushing Alice harder to garner the evidence he needs to take down Daniel Bailey, but it never rings true that he would push as hard as he does. To try and amplify that guilt, flashbacks show another angle from Falk’s past involving his mother also disappearing in the same general region of Victoria, which multiplies Aaron’s personal stake in trying to save Alice before animals, weather, or even a potential serial killer could end her life. That last bit is a tacked-on element to the story that is forced from the first mention of it and, thankfully, barely comes back up over the course of the film. The majority of Force of Nature does not even include Falk, as he serves as a facilitator for the narrative rather than an active participant.

The heavy lifting in Force of Nature falls on the coworkers, led by Anna Torv and Robin McLeavy. A lot of Eric Bana’s screen time is spent asking the cast questions, which segue into flashbacks where the bulk of the mystery unfolds. While Sisi Stringer and Lucy Ansell are good as siblings Beth and Bree and Deborra-Lee Furness as their boss, Torv and McLeavy are the strongest in the cast. Torv, best known for her roles in Fringe and Mindhunter, plays Alice as a difficult coworker who does not have positive relationships in the workplace. Alice also harbors a past connection with McLeavy’s Lauren, a factor in the plot. McLeavy was great in the horror flick The Loved Ones and AMC’s western Hell On Wheels, and here she makes for a sympathetic character more connected to the plot than it appears at first glance. There is also a brief appearance by Ingrid Torelli, who recently appeared in a major role in Late Night With The Devil.

Writer and director Robert Connolly makes great use of the outdoors, a distinct character in the story. With the literal dryness that played a role in the first movie, Force of Nature has elements of a survival thriller baked into the narrative but never to the point that it shifts the story’s momentum. Clocking in at nearly two hours, I kept expecting something to happen, but it never did. This mystery has little mystery, with the story unfolding like an episode of Law & Order or NCIS. As each witness is questioned and conveys what they know, we are given more and more of the real story. By the time the twist is revealed, it is underwhelming at best. Robert Connelly does what he can with the source material, and there are some well-acted pairings in various scenes throughout the film, but none amount to enough to sustain a feature film level of interest.

With a title like Force of Nature, you would expect a certain caliber of energy throughout the film. Instead, this movie wastes the great introduction to Aaron Falk that was The Dry and never comes close to replicating the intensity of that movie. Eric Bana is a far better actor than he is credited for, and I had hoped this movie would cement a resurgence in his career. Force of Nature is a barely passable mystery with nary a thrill on display. A quick scan through any network police procedural series would give you more entertainment than this movie, which wastes a solid cast on a forgettable plot. Maybe Bana and Connolly will reunite for an adaptation of the third and final novel featuring Aaron Falk, if only to redeem The Dry franchise from this disappointing follow-up.

5

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.