The Last Wave (1977)

last wave poster 1977 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Interesting film that blends genres

Feels like it loses some focus near the end

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Last Wave

Studio:   Ayer Production

Genre(s):   Drama/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):   December 13, 1977 (Australia)/January 1979 (US)

MPAA Rating:   PG

last wave richard chamberlain david gulpilil

Trust me…you don’t want to push this

Something is happening in Australia.  Destructive storms and black rain are plaguing the area.  When an Aboriginal man is murdered, lawyer David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) is brought in to defend the men accused of the killing.  Plagued by nightmares of water and doom, Burton begins to realize that something more is happening in Sydney than just storms.  Burton begins to suspect that the men are part of a lost tribe living within the city and the secret they are protecting could mean doom.

Directed by Peter Weir (who also helped write the story with Tony Morphett and Petru Popescu), The Last Wave is a supernatural fantasy drama.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and has gained a cult following over the years.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #142).

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir’s 1975 film which preceded this) was an interesting, eerie movie that really had its own feel and style.  Like Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave keeps this odd dreamy feel and the same feeling of dread hangs over the picture.  While I enjoyed Picnic at Hanging Rock more, The Last Wave also is a worthy companion piece.

last wave aboriginal deadpool david gulpilil

Either this symbol means death and destruction or that Deadpool is coming

Australia’s production of their own films was relatively new at the time this film was made and therefore, the culture and land of Australia were ripe for exploration.  The movie dives into the rift between the native Aboriginals and the “settlers” (The 4th generation Australian wife had never even met one).  This is mixed with a man caught between the two cultures and plagued with visions of his own tied to the Aboriginal idea of Dreamtime.  It leaves a doom hanging over the film that feels unstoppable.  The feeling keeps building, but I also feel that it loses some direction in the final act which seems a bit rushed.

Richard Chamberlain is surprisingly decent in the film.  He comes off as a very average man who is caught up in something odd that he can’t even explain to his wife played by Olivia Hamnett.  The scene-stealer of the film has to be Australian actor David Gulpilil who is trying to keep David away from the secret world of his people.  Both Gulpilil and Nandjiwarra Amagula really bring something different to the screen and offer a new voice that doesn’t feel very explored in cinema.

last wave ending richard chamberlain

Apocalyptic views of a tidal wave? Let’s go wash our face in the ocean…

Visually, the movie has some great cues that build the suspense.  From the beginning where the cloudless sky rains down hell to the ending of the film in which Dreamtime and natural time seem to blend (leaving you questioning if what David is seeing is a vision of the future or really occurring), the movie manages to simply create dread without much effort…with pounding rain and sound.

The Last Wave is a different blending of fantasy and drama.  It feels at points like a thriller but also feels to be touching the borders of science-fiction at points.  This unique combination makes the movie feel new, unpredictable, and original.  I don’t know that The Last Wave is for everyone (it does get highly interpretational at points), but it is worth giving a shot if you are interested in Australian film or movies that bend genres.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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