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Eric Bana is back for another mystery in Force of Nature

Eric Bana and Tony Briggs in Robert Connolly’s FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2.
Courtesy of Narelle Portanier. An IFC Films Release
Eric Bana and Tony Briggs in Robert Connolly’s FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2.

A few years ago, a nifty little noir from Australia called The Dry was released, starring Eric Bana as a detective who returns to his hometown where he has a lot of ghosts waiting for him. It was a good movie, and dark, and, if you zoomed out a bit, almost apocalyptic in how it incorporated the impact of climate change without ever even uttering that phrase.

There’s a sequel out now called Force of Nature, which is, like the first film, based on a book by Jane Harper. (The title, at least as it’s being released in the U.S., is actually Force of Nature: The Dry 2, which is not just awkward, but confusing—presumably it’s called this to tie it to the first film, although the film itself only uses Force of Nature as its title, and there’s nothing at all “dry” about this one, not to mention it prompts one to ask why they didn’t reverse things and call it The Dry 2: Force of Nature. Ah well.) It finds Bana returning as federal police detective Aaron Falk, this time investigating the disappearance of a woman named Alice on a corporate hiking retreat, although Falk is actually there because he’d secretly been using Alice to acquire information about money laundering and other corporate malfeasance in order to take down the heads of her company. Alice went into the mountains with her group, and three days later, the group emerged without her, some of them nursing injuries, one with a nasty spider bite, and all of them acting as if something terrible had happened, but not giving up a lot of information. Complicating the search is that a massive storm is looming that will make the terrain impossible to navigate.

Despite its title, Force of Nature has a lot less on its mind than the first film did, and Falk is not nearly as interesting, although Bana’s quiet, brooding charisma carries him through, as it usually does. And there are some unnecessary details about childhood trauma and a serial killer, and the movie would have been sharper and leaner without these. But director Robert Connelly is skilled at drawing us into the mystery, regularly cutting between Falk’s investigation and the events that led to Alice’s disappearance without ever really confusing us about what we’re seeing. It may not all add up to what we got the first time around, but there’s nothing wrong with a well-made mystery that consistently holds our attention.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is on VOD May 10th.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.