New Zealand colonial wars film that had its own "wars".
Charles Eggen | Springfield, Oregon, USA | 01/12/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This historical drama, set in 1860s New Zealand, focuses on the Whanganui River valley
and an Irish settler's seven year effort in trying to find her son, kidnapped by his Maori grandfather.
All this while colonials and Maori are engaged in guerrilla-style warfare. This is probably Vincent Ward's
best film to date and probably the best Maori themed film yet made. The settings and photography
alone are worth viewing, even though the film is not perfect. I was left with the feeling that some further
improvements were needed with editing. But given the many production problems, there may have been
some filming needs that were not fulfilled. Very much worth experiencing.
We All Go Down That River...
Aaron Gutsell | Clementon, NJ | 11/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""A word for you. Cease traveling on the roads. Stop forever the going on the roads lest you be left there as food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field; or for me. Because I have eaten the European as beef. He was cooked in a pot and the women and children partook of the food. I have begun to eat human flesh. My throat is constantly open for the flesh of man. I shall not die. I shall not die. When death itself is dead I shall be alive."
Temuera Morrison delivers his lines with the equanimity and menace he uniquely combines as Te Kai Po, a rebellious Maori chief. For its U.S. release 'River Queen' was stuck with a B-movie cover that camouflages the Grade A story within. Pitched as a Kiefer Sutherland vehicle by the jacket, it is easy to miss many of New Zealand's heaviest hitters beneath: Cliff Curtis, Temuera Morrison, and director Vincent Ward. Samantha Morton is a strong lead, backed up by Stephen Rea and a creditable Irish accent by Sutherland, who plays Private Doyle.
The story revolves around a mother (Morton) searching for her kidnapped child amidst the Maori warring against settlers during the 1860s. The fern-choked muddiness of 'River Queen' evokes 'The Piano' but it is a story that goes down a river; a meandering, primeval tract of green reminiscent of 'Apocalypse Now' where Sarah meets her own Kurtz. Cunning battle tactics developed by the outnumbered Maori are well depicted, and enemy musket shots are often little more than flashes lost amid the verdant undergrowth.
Cultural references throughout the movie are globally relevant today; the moko form of tattoo and tikis are abundant, and there are several excellent hakas, the war dances that are now becoming popular with West Coast college football teams. Maori spoken throughout is mostly translated, but sometimes input is demanded from the audience, such as a phrase made obvious by a hand gesture that goes untranslated. The London Philharmonic provides a strong musical backdrop over which to tell the tale, and the only negative is a subtle current of unease that runs through 'River Queen', a vague sense of the production problems that always seem to plague visionary directors like Terry Gilliam, or in this case, Vincent Ward.
Notorious New Zealand flop
Peter Hoogenboom | New Zealand | 02/07/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The troubled production of this film is far more interesting than the end product. Director Vincent Ward was temporarily fired and the cinematographer Alun Bollinger filled in. Star Samantha Morton was ill for much of the time, which accounts for the extensive use of voice-over narration.
The action takes place in 19th century New Zealand where Maori (the indigenous people) and the colonial English are engaged in conflict around a river. Director Ward has tried to create an epic in the mold of Herzog's "river" films but his terrible script leaves the actors nothing to work with. A notorious flop in New Zealand."