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Australia 2007
Directed by
Matthew Saville
108 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Matthew Saville’s debut feature (he had previously directed television including the substantial fifty-minute film Roy Höllsdotter Live in 2003) is a stylish work albeit one caught somewhere between existential crisis and suburban realism. The former aspect is its strong suit.

Brendan Cowell plays Graham McGahan, a cop suffering from dizzy spells and tinnitus who is placed on “light duties” manning a police caravan near where a murder has taken place, one possibly connected with a random mass execution onboard a local train. 

Noise is ostensibly a dark (literally so as it is shot almost entirely at night or in dimly-lit interiors) crime movie but its real objective is to offer a study of its central character, a relatively young man, who has drifted into the police force for want of better grades and whose disaffection with his lot (he smokes dope at home with his live-in girlfriend, Caitlin, also a police officer, played by Katie Wall) which includes the worry that he may have cancer. Combine this with a tendency towards sarcasm and McGahan manages to rub most people with whom he comes into contact the wrong way. The latter include his colleagues and the various bods who turn up at the caravan.

Set mostly in the real, but in this case ironically-named, Melbourne working-class/migrant suburb of Sunshine, writer-director Saville tends to reduce the realist aspect to the film to an excess of expletives, with some, to my ears at least, odd idiomatic phrases (when was the last time you described something being “as full as a state school" or being "in more trouble than the early settlers") and the exaggerated Strine accents, Cowell’s in particular.

The more engaging aspect of the film is the portrait of McGahan which writer-director Saville achieves through a series of encounters with various locals who turn up during his night shift, This clever structuring device, along with the scenes of his home life, works well to show McGahan struggling to manage his self-destructive tendencies. Cowell, Ocker accent aside, serves Saville well.

As a crime thriller forget Noise. Although the opening scene suggests that this is the film’s agenda it is a largely peripheral matter and it is when Saville returns to this aspect including a visit to McGahan in his caravan from Lavinia (Maia Thomas), the survivor of the train massacre, and, even more so, late in the film when a Hollywood style gun battle erupts, that proceedings feel strained and out of synch with the deliberative laconicism that otherwise characterizes the film. There also may be some who will feel that the lack of a resolution of this aspect is asking a bit much of an audience.

Despite not being entirely successful Noise suggests that Saville has talent worth watching.




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