The Tracker [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (17th June 2018).
The Film

"The Tracker" (2002)

Set in 1922 in the Australian outback, four men are tracking an aboriginal man accused of murdering a white woman. The leader of the troop is an officer nicknamed "The Fanatic" (played by Gary Sweet), a headstrong man who sees only the law as the single side. And in a time when Aboriginals were not considered "man", he does not see the target or the others that may be encountered on the journey as people but savages that can turn at any time. "The Follower" (played by Damon Gameau) is the youngest of all in his early twenties. Dressed professionally in greenhorn attire at all times in the hot desert, he is the least experienced on the manhunt but is eager to put his skills to the test. "The Veteran" (played by Grant Page) is the eldest and most experienced of the group and the one that was roped in for the missing. But the one leading the white men on the trail is "The Tracker" (played by David Gulpilil) an aboriginal man who knows more about the outback and the ways of the native people than the three white men combined.

While on the trail of finding the fugitive, the men encounter a small tribe that are unable to help with information. Interrogation gives no clues and the men and women are massacred by the Fanatic one by one. The young Follower is traumatized from the event, the Veteran is unfazed, and the Tracker had seen it coming from miles away and unable to do anything. From hereon the group of men's quest becomes one that will test them mentally, physically, and emotionally as allegiances start to tear apart and trusting each other becomes impossible.

"The Tracker" is an extremely minimal film in its structure and style. The story is basically carried by the four main characters with very little interaction with other people in the rural setting. Dialogue is also very minimal, with none of the characters being named at all, and little given to backstories, and little in terms of heavy dialogue. We never learn of their families, their relationship, how the Tracker became part of the white team, etc. Quite a few scenes are done in extremely long takes with no dialogue and instead the songs by Archie Roach mutes all dialogue and effects for music video like montages for a narrative effect. Scenes of extreme violence, action, and confrontations are not shown in detail but instead cut away to paintings by artist Peter Coad for artistic visuals that are both beautiful and disturbing.

Written and directed by Rolf de Heer, the simplicity of the film may be only kept to the storytelling aspect and structure. The extremely wide and deep vistas of the outback are gorgeous as it is vast, giving the small story a sort of insignificance compared to the landscape that is thousands if not millions of years old. The widescreen cinematography by Ian Jones gives the scenery a grand scale while still able to keep a grounded work for the closeups of the main characters in bright blue sky day shots as well as the dark and frightening night shots. The performances from the four main leads are to be praised as well. For a screenplay that has minimal dialogue and backstory, the actors give true to form performances in subtleties in body language and speaking tones. Gary Sweet's performance as the racially charged lawman is filled with anger but not to the point of explosion. Damon Gameau's performance as the naive and innocent officer who goes down the darker path is the character who changes the most through the course of the story and is the closest to most audience's eyes. Grant Page being a veteran of Australian screens with his stuntwork gives a very understated performance as the Veteran, who audiences probably would have liked to have seen more, but as a spoiler it may be, is the first to be injured on the trail. David Gulpilil is the standout as usual, as his performance is one of empathy while also mysterious in nature. The way he sees the world is quite different from the white men and he understands that very well. In many ways he uses that to his advantage, but are his intentions more than just guiding the men through the desert?

"The Tracker" opened theatrically in Australia on August 8th 2002. It was not a major hit theatrically grossing less than $1 million in its native country but the critical praise couldn't be denied with critics hailing it as one of the best of the year. The film won three AFI Awards for Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Actor for Gulpilil, three IF Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Music and many other prizes at international festivals, especially for Gulpilil's performance. The film is poetic, quiet, and simple, yet suspenseful, somber, and deep in its nature, as a mirror to humanity, recent Australian history, and moral issues that still can be felt in modern times.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 coded, in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The interpositive was scanned at 4K for this new restoration and results are greatly pleasing though it does have its imperfections. The colors of the brown desert, blue skies, green trees, and the paintings used throughout look exceptional with deep vivid tones. Skin tones also look very good as well along with the characters' rugged and dusty garments. The restoration did clean up the image being mostly free of specs and scratches, but on close inspection on some daytime scenes there are imperfections remaining. The image also suffers a bit from wobble, with the picture shifting ever so slightly in shots without movement. Overall though it is a very pleasing transfer.

The film's runtime is 98:06.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The original 5.1 track is presented in lossless audio. Considering that the music by Archie Roach and composer Graham Tardif take center stage in many scenes, the surround channels kick in quite well with the soothing yet disturbing moments with music. For dialogue it is almost entirely centered and there is little to no issue with distortion, errors, or audio dropouts, being clear at all times, though it may be a little on the lower volume side by a few decibels. Overall a pleasing audio transfer with the 4K restoration.

There are no subtitles offered for the film.

Extras

"David Gulpilil: I Remember..." featurette (10:16)
In this new featurette, actor Gulpilil returns to some of the shooting locations and shares his memories of the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with Rolf de Heer & David Stratton from "The Movie Show" (9:28)
The title is a little misleading as it should be a 2002 clip from the TV show "The Movie Show" featuring critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton with interviews of Rolf de Heer and Peter Coad. The two critics share their thoughts on the film (both giving it four and a half stars), and later featuring EPK clips from the director and the painter.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Outtakes (15:16)
Rolf de Heer gives an introduction to these unused clips from the film, with Gulpilil and others messing up their lines and other unfortunate happenings, with some additional comments by de Heer over some of them. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.75:1 and windowboxed 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interviews on Location (36:05)
Taken from the shooting set, there are various comments from interviews with Rolf de Heer, cast David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, and Damon Gameau, cinematographer Ian Jones, and sound recordist/designer James Currie, with behind the scenes footage of the shoot. Discussed about are the characterizations, the direction, the use of anamorphic lenses, the shooting locations, and much more.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Peter Coad" featurette (16:40)
In this featurette on painter Peter Coad, he narrates about the creation of the paintings, the on set locations, and the importance of the visuals made in collaboration. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

59th Venice International Film Festival 2002 (6:00)
Collected are a montage of scenes from the festival. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

World Premiere in Adelaide Festival of the Arts 2002 (11:21)
For the world premiere, Archie Roach and his band performed the music of the film on stage in front of the screen for the audience. Presented are some moments of the rehearsal, the stage greeting, clips of the performances, and post screening interviews. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Melbourne International Film Festival 2002 Opening Night Film (7:13)
Like the screening at the Adelaide Festival, Roach and the band performed the music live for the screening. Included in the featurette are clips of the performances, comments from the cast and crew from prior to screening and post screening. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

IF Awards 2002 (8:28)
The awards the film won at the 2002 IF Awards are presented here, and while Gulpilil couldn't accept his two awards for the night - the Best Actor award and a special "Legend Award", though he was able to send them a humorous video message for thanks. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

AFI Awards 2002 (1:10)
This time Gulpilil accepts the award on stage. And like he said, he deserved it. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Alien Invasion" music clip by Archie Roach (4:53)
This music video is taken from Roach’s 2002 album “Sensual Being”, which was released just prior to the film though the song does not appear in the film itself. The transfer is very good with the quality of video and audio. This was previously available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


Almost all of the extras from the Australian Madman DVD from more than a decade ago have been ported, though the Umbrella Blu-ray loses the outdated text biographies and theatrical trailer. The US DVD from Facets included the hour long documentary "Gulpilil: One Red Blood" which was not directly connected to the film.

Packaging

The package states region B only, but this is in fact a region ALL disc.
The inlay is reversible with the other side being identical except for the removal of the Australian rating logo from the front.

Overall

"The Tracker" is a very quiet and unexpecting film with its tone, pacing, and slow narrative, but a visual delight showcasing the vistas alongside the tension building relations with the four main characters. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray features a great 4K restoration of the film, with excellent extras including new ones, making this highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: A- Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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