Australian director Peter Weir had made several excellent films before The Year of Living Dangerously was released to critical acclaim in 1983, but it was this moody tale of romance and political upheaval that bought Weir ... more »and star Mel Gibson their tickets to Hollywood. (Weir's next film was the 1985 Harrison Ford hit Witness.) Set in Indonesia in 1965, the film focuses on a group of Caucasian journalists and photographers who are in Jakarta to cover the political upheavals that are threatening to collapse the unstable government of President Sukarno. Gibson plays an Australian correspondent named Guy Hamilton who's determined to get the best story, and he's given invaluable assistance from Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt), a half-Indonesian, half-Australian photojournalist who knows the culture inside and out. Billy introduces Guy to Jill (Sigourney Weaver) and their romance develops in an atmosphere of political unrest and constant personal danger. This journalistic adventure is compelling in itself (and Hunt's gender-switching performance won her a much-deserved Oscar), but it's Weir's creation of a rich, authentically exotic locale that gives the movie its alluring and subtly mysterious atmosphere. A tale of tragedy and survival, it's also a story about fascinating people at a turbulent juncture of history, and the empathy they feel for each other and the culture that surrounds them. --Jeff Shannon« less
"I loved the original theatrical release of The Year of Living Dangerously. I watched it over and over. It was a beautiful, sensuous film. This is not the original. This DVD was the work of some hack who left the best parts of the movie on the cutting room floor. Gone is much of the gamelan music, many scenic shots of Indonesian countryside, and one of the hotest make-out scenes in cinematic history. Just as Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver are about to go at it the scene abruptly ends. Even the sequence of the original is changed. The over all effect is a coursening of what had been a classic. This was such a dark and murky print I still wonder if I somehow got a bootleg copy surreptitiously videotaped by some artless thug. I feel angry and cheated.
I recommend waiting until the original version is released. DON'T BUY THIS TRASH!"
Excellent film which works on many levels.
Marmez1@aol.com | Los Angeles, CA USA | 03/09/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What is this film about? Is it about political corruption and intrigue? Is it about how revolutionary movements start by promising a lot and end by delivering little? Is it about the conflict between love and duty? Or perhaps the cynicism of the press and the various and conflicting goals? The film could be about how hard it is to overcome fear and superstition. Maybe it is about doing small things to make the world better, but then reverting to dramatic acts when the small things don't work.Mel Gibson is a novice reporter for Australian news recently assigned to Indonesia. He wants to make a splash and climb the reportorial hierarchy. Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt in a stellar performance) takes him under his wing and educates him about poverty and teaches him to recognize the shadow play of politics. Billy also introduces him to Jill (Sigourney Weaver). They fall in love and have a wonderful scene in the rain. He commits a dramatic act that costs him dearly. (I don't want to give away everything.) Through it all we meet a cast of characters - reporters and diplomats - who are in turns fascinating and loathsome. The movie is beautifully photographed. The music adds to the atmosphere. Since I reserve a 5 star rating for true classics, this film gets only a 4. However I do recommend it very strongly."
Contrasts and meaning
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 06/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Weir's film 'The Year of Living Dangerously' was shown at a campus film festival during my first year as an undergraduate (a few years after Linda Hunt had won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing a male character), sponsored by the departments of political science, journalism, and East Asian studies. The setting is 1965, Djakarta, during a time when Southeast Asia was high on the scope of European radar and coming into more prominence for American eyes. Indonesia was (and is) a big country, with population and resources (both underutilised) the envy of East and West.The dictator Sukarno was playing a dangerous game trying the balance the two, internally as well as in foreign affairs. In the end, it did not pay off for him, and Indonesia has only recently begun to work at achieving a prominence a resource-rich, 100+ million populated country can attain.Into this tight-rope situation dropped Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson), of the Australian Broadcasting Service, a fresh-faced journalist out to make a mark for himself, sabotaged by his predecessor and professionally ignored by other Western journalists (who had their own headline-deadlines to meet). However, a strange American/Chinese man, Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt), befriends him, and attempts to help him both professionally, personally, and spiritually.Billy takes Guy on a trip through the slums of Djakarta, preaching Tolstoy, charity and compassion, and tries to get Guy to see beyond the headlines. Billy also introduces Guy to Jill (Sigourney Weaver), a British agent planning to leave Djakarta.The tale wanders through politics, personal strife and decision-making, and the beginnings of revolution, climaxing with Billy putting his words into action and suffering a martyr's fate trying to get Sukarno's attention for the suffering poor, and Jill and Guy making a mad dash for the airport before the runways are closed.Those of us with benefit of hindsight know that Guy could have stayed, the communist PKI in fact did not succeed, and he could have continued to write articles and make a mark. But that would not have been as romantic.This movie is one of contrasts--the elegance of a British Embassy cocktail party contrasted with the poverty of the native Javanese; the cooperation of Billy against the ignoring of the other professionals; the native spirituality (which isn't exploited nearly enough) against the materialistic West (made worse when adopted by a native such as Sukarno). The music from Vangelis is an interesting accompaniment (remember Chariots of Fire?) and the cinematography grand in many cases. But subtlety abounds here--you may miss much the first time through.This is an atypical Weir film (but of course, that may be an oxymoron, for is there a 'typical' Weir film?). Australian, but it doesn't always seem so; artistic, but it doesn't always seem so--there are many such attributes. Weir always tries to inject meaning into his films in many ways -- the injection didn't quite take in every way in this film, and some meanings are a bit overdone, but overall, there is a good balance.This is not an action film (despite occasionally being categorised in this group). If you're looking for bombs bursting in air, look elsewhere."
In a foreign land
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 12/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There have been a lot of political dramas about third world situations undergoing violent upheavals but none have captured their complexity quite as well as this one. In fact though it is a film about a specific revolution or populist uprising Year of Living Dangerously deals with that situation in a philosophic way, making a fable of all its elements which allows this film to speak specifically to that situation as it unfolds and generally about all such situations that occur with unfortunate regularity in the news from places all over the world where mass starvation undermines a current regimes authority.
The film is also about a wealthy nations role in such circumstance. Mel Gibson plays an Australian journalist and that allows him to report events as they occur but not have to get involved in them or think about what they mean. That changes however when Mel meets Linda Hunt. Her character teaches Mel how to care about the people not just the events and that is the most fascinating relationship in the film. Sigourney Weaver is the daughter of an English colonial administrator but now that the political climate is a threatening and perilously unstable one the English are departing. Her father is pompous and very English, his intentions are good ones but his methods have been ineffective because from his lofty English perch he can not see the real needs of the people. Mel falls for his daughter who as a free spirit and free thinker cares for the people and understands their needs in a way her father could not. It is not surprising that Linda Hunt likes her and wishes to see she and Mel together. And she has a fascination with shadow puppets that makes her think of herself as something of a puppet master in the Mel and Sigourney love affair. However there is another puppet show going on and that is the political one. Linda Hunt may play the puppet master in the private sector but other people are pulling the strings in the public arena. Disillusion follows and a very exciting finale. Really one of the few films of the last thirty years I would call perfect in every way. Complex enough to give you a new slant on these events every time you view it. Every element of the film is fulfillingly developed and explored in such a way as to make one feel one has just watched a perfect film."
A rare jewel
R. David Roe | Hixson, Tennessee United States | 11/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I reserve five stars for movies that create or recreate a world I want to live in or touch in some way. This is not to say that one film is BETTER THAN "Citizen Kane" or NOT AS GOOD AS "Casablanca." All good movies are their own reward for having watched them. A movie that can truly move you is a rare thing. It is the accumulation of these rare moments that enrich our lives."The Year of Living Dangerously" is a rare thing. It is a film that lets you see an alien culture in all its poverty and violence and political turmoil and renders it -- at its heart -- as a frightening and beautiful thing. I know I will perhaps never go to Djakarta, Indonesia. I certainly cannot know the fear the people of Java lived with under the Sukarno regime. I do not know what fears they live with now. But I am haunted by the voice of Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt in her Oscar winning role) who is himself haunted by the misery and hardships of his adopted people. Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) is the journalist trying to cover a budding revolution the western world watches but doesn't wish to understand. Hamilton is, as I would be, lost in this alien culture, visibly panicked as he struggles to keep up with his callous fellow journalists. Sigourney Weaver is the sophisticated British attache for whom he finds himself falling in love. Ultimately, Hamilton must decide between his loyalty to his job and his loyalty to himself.Peter Weir's empathic direction and Maurice Jarre's lush score put you in Indonesia in the 1960s and hold you there. Stay. You will go back again and again."