The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Experiencing life in Indonesia.

      Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) is a reporter who travels to Indonesia in 1965 just as the government is ready to be toppled. He experiences all the chaos as well as the poverty of the people and apathy from his fellow newsmen. He falls in love with a beautiful diplomat Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) who works with a dwarf photographer named Billy Squires (Linda Hunt in her Academy Award winning performance), and eventually finds himself reluctantly thrust into the middle of the turmoil.

     The film is great at recreating the environment and atmosphere of that period. One gets a very good understanding and feeling at just how poverty stricken and desperate the Indonesian people where. Linda Hunt is unique and memorable as the male dwarf. She also has a great line when a fellow photographer asks her opinion of a picture that he took of a naked woman. He wants to know if she thinks it is art or pornography. Her reply, “If it is out of focus it’s art, if it is in focus it is pornography.” It is also fun to see journeymen supporting actor Michael Murphy playing against type. Usually he is saddled with rather transparent types of roles, but here his character is quite obnoxious.

      It would have been better had the film given the viewers a little bit more of a historical background before it just plopped the characters into a very chaotic and confusing situation. Most people probably have no clue as to the history of Indonesia let alone finding it on a map. It would have also been more interesting had the film been based on real people who really lived through the situation instead of predictable prototypes. A very young Gibson seems a bit overwhelmed with his role. His character seesaws from being boring to exasperating. He gets a huge crush on the Weaver character and chases after her like she is the only thing on his mind and then when she gives him an important piece of information he pounces on it even if it means losing her and their relationship. The pace is hurt by having the film spend too much of its middle section focusing on the romance, which really isn’t all that interesting or diverting. The ending is much too pat for a story that takes place in such a dangerous and complex environment.

      This is a grand idea that becomes too muddled and doesn’t place enough emphasis on the historical background and context. The lead character is boring and the pace is not compelling enough.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Weir

Studio: MGM/UA

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

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