Before Origin last week, one of the talking boofheads slipped in an advertorial for the dead-boring X-Men – as if the squillion-dollar juggernaut needs a leg-up. Meanwhile, a fabulous, much lower-budget Australian flick withers in the shade. That’s The Coliseum for you.
The opening sequence in writer/director Craig Monahan’s unheralded gem Healing, of an eagle in pursuit of a hawk, is breathtakingly fast and tense.
When the mighty raptor is entangled in barbed wire, it is collected by the inmates of a prison farm and, with other damaged birds, nursed back to health in an aviary constructed for the purpose.
Viktor (Don Hany), an Iranian, will be its chief minder. The obvious metaphor, in the title and circumstances of the men’s captivity, is beautifully dealt with in a script that creates mounting tension without resort to mawkish sentimentality or thrill-seeking violence – it is subtle in a way that has become all too uncommon.
Performances are great – Hany, whom we know from TV, gives to Viktor an embittered stubbornness and inner turmoil that easily elicits empathy, the ever reliable Hugo Weaving is stoic but likeable as Officer Perry, while Mark Leonard Winter’s Shane, the weedy but rat-cunning stoner, delivers lines of deliciously un-PC humour.
Lifting it to greater heights, the music of David Hirschfelder, so perfectly withheld until exactly the right moments for maximum effect, makes poetry with Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography.
Perhaps the real star of the show, however, is Yasmine – a wedge-tailed eagle, just like the ones we see soaring on the thermals of our own skies.
Releasing her into the wild, Viktor tells her, ‘All you seek, is you’. As in real life, the perfect ending might not always be what you anticipated, for, as Bob Dylan sang all those years ago, ‘are birds free from the chains of the skyways?’
The greatest learning is gifted to us when we’re able to cope with the hardest truths.
This is by far the best movie on in town, one that will let your heart take flight.
Go see it.
~ John Campbell