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The Independent Critic

Jonathon Buckley, Brooke Chamberlain, Martin Copping, Robin Copping, Sunny Darcy-Smith, Alexandra Davies, Rich Paul, Tim Phillips, Tatiana Sokolova
Martin Copping
98 Mins.
Indie Rights

 Movie Review: The Dunes 
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It's worth noting up front that The Dunes is the kind of film that demands your attention. It's not one of those "sit and watch while doing the laundry" kinds of films. It's a film you need to watch and listen to if you're really going to appreciate it. 

And you will. 

The feature writing/directing debut from Martin Copping, who also co-stars in the film, The Dunes introduces us to Nicholas Rice (Copping), a journalist from the Los Angeles Times who has occasion to return to his Australian hometown of The Dunes when the tenant for his home mysteriously disappears leaving no signs of struggle or a break-in to be found. They and all their belongings are gone. Longing to reunite with his increasingly capacitated father, Nicholas's journey becomes even more compelling when a mysterious figure from his past shows up and threatens his existence. 

Copping was in my home state of Indiana recently as a guest at Purdue University where he gave a Q&A about his work on The Dunes and his work in the video games Call of Duty: Vanguard and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege. An acclaimed voice actor, Copping has crafted quite the winning drama/thriller here that has picked up over 30 awards along its festival journey and has now been picked up by the ever more impressive indie distributor Indie Rights. 

If there's a central theme to The Dunes, it's dealing with what happens when we don't come to terms with and/or deal with our past. The way we get there, which I'm certainly not delving into here, is absolutely captivating and becomes even more riveting once William Night, or Nighty (Tim Phillips, Animal Kingdom), arrives on the scene and pretty much refuses to leave it. While it may seem like you've seen this storyline a thousand times before, rest assured that Copping really pushes the envelope and the film's final 30-45 minutes or so are absolutely dynamite. 

Copping impresses as Nicholas, an intriguing soul whose story unfolds in bits and pieces and in all the right ways. Phillips is perhaps even more riveting, a constant sense of menace giving way to a myriad of other emotions and possibilities here. Phillips's work here could have easily crossed the line into caricature - it never does. 

Impressive work is also turned in by Marsha Vassilevskaia as Beccy and Alexandra Davies as Mrs. Night among others. This is a strong ensemble cast across the board. 

Original music by Antonio Tranquilino perfectly complements the film's dramatic rhythms and heightened episodes of suspense. The film's lensing captures both the beauty of its Australian locale and the often unspoken tensions between characters. 

In some ways, The Dunes goes where you expect it to go. Yet, Copping takes it even further and leaves us both breathless and impressed with both his vision and integrity to pull it all off. The final moments are inspired and The Dunes is an absolute blast to watch. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic