Emily Nell
Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography
MED231 Australian Cinema
Dr. Garry Gillard

 

The Last Train to Freo

 

 

 

Principal Cast and Crew

Cast:
Steve LeMarquand      - The Tall Thug
Tom Budge                 - Trev
Gillian Jones               - Maureen
Gigi Edgley                 - Lisa
Glenn Hazeldine          - Simon
Reg Cribb                    - Man on Platform
Lisa Hensley               - Train Announcer

Director: Jeremy Sims
Writer: Reg Cribb
Producers: Lisa Duff, Greg Duffy, Sue Taylor
Executive Producers: Joan Peters, Jeremy Sims, Sue Taylor
Production Designer: Clayton Jauncey
Cinematographer: Toby Oliver
Film Editor: Merlin Cornish
Casting: Annie Murtagh-Monks
First Assistant Director: Michael Faranda
Sound: Glen Dillion
Production Companies:
            Longway Films
            Pork Chop Productions
            Taylor Media

Other Film Information

Release Dates:
14 September 2006, Australia
4 August 2006, Melbourne International Film Festival
24 July 2006 , New Zealand International Film Festival
DVD Release (http://thecia.com.au/reviews/l/last-train-to-freo.shtml):
            Rental – 21 February 2007
            Retail – 6 June 2007
Distributor: Dendy Films
Movie Length: 85 minutes
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Censorship Classification (http://thecia.com.au/reviews/l/last-train-to-freo.shtml):
MA 15+, for strong coarse language and violence
Awards:
            Australian Film Institute 2006
                        Steve Le Marquand nominated for Best Lead Actor
                        Reg Cribb nominated for Best Screenplay – Adapted
                        Tom Budge nominated for Best Supporting Actor
            Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards 2006
                        Steve Le Marquand nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role
                        Tom Budge nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
                        Gigi Edgley nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role
                        Gillian Jones nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
                        Reg Cribb nominated for Best Screenplay – Adapted
Box Office Opening: $25,613
Box Office Total: $102,726

Interviews with Filmmakers

http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=12247&s=Interviews
“Sims Like a Good Movie.” Urbancinefile.com.au 14 Semptember 2006
            I felt this was a great opportunity to try my hand at film directing because it’s a half way house between cinema and theatre…But we wanted to take the material further than on stage and dig deeper into the psyche of the characters. (Jeremy Sims, director)

http://movies.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=148588
“Jeremy Sims Interview.” Ninemsn.com.au 29 September 2006
            I know the basic premise of this play came from an incident that Reg was subjected to on a train in Perth. In fact he'd gone back to Perth to attend his brother's funeral ... and he was hijacked by a really intelligent, incredibly threatening kind of guy for whom the train carriage was his personal fiefdom, the only place in the world that he feels he can control. (Jeremy Sims, director)

http://www.yourmovies.com.au/news/index.cfm?action=news&i=91972
“Tom Budge Interview: Last Train to Freo.”  YourMovies.com.au
            To do a whole film on a train carriage in real time is a mammoth task, and I thought, 'it's going to work me really hard and it's going to be tough to keep the energy for that long, and to keep people interested'. That's why I did it.  (Tom Budge, Trev)

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,20404512-5003420,00.html
“Train Ride to Trouble.”  The Courier Mail, 14 September 2006
Before we started, I was very nervous as it's a very intense piece and there's nowhere an actor can hide in this. You can't let go for one minute. (Gigli Edgley, Lisa)

Reviews

http://www.taylormedia.com.au/pdf/review-empire.pdf
Adams, Michael.  Empire Magazine, March 2007 pg. 108
            Superbly orchestrated inside a single train carriage by first-time feature director Jeremy Sims…Last Train to Freo is compelling from the moment it pulls out of the station  (Michael Adams, Empire)

 

 

http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/last-train-to-freo/2006/09/15/1157827139673.html?page=2
Byrnes, Paul.  Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 2006
 It's enjoyable as an actors' piece, with Le Marquand and Budge especially good as the commuters from hell, but that's not really enough to overcome the limitations of it being filmed theatre. (Paul Byrnes, Sydney Morning Herald)

http://www.infilm.com.au/reviews/lasttraintofreo.htm
Carruthers, Avril.  In Film Australia
Last Train to Freo is an extraordinary film that will leave you considering its themes, potent images and moods, for some time. (Avril Carruthers, In Film Australia)

http://www.taylormedia.com.au/production_last_train_to_freo_reviews.htm
Higson, Rosalie. Weekend Australian, 2 February 2007 pg. 25
            Actor-turned-director Jeremy Sims has made a confronting, claustrophobic and very Australian drama, with excellent performances from all five actors. (Rosalie Higson, Weekend Australian)

http://www.theage.com.au/news/film-reviews/last-train-to-freo/2006/09/13/1157827012404.html
Hawker, Philippa. The Age, 13 September 2006
            Last Train to Freo starts out promisginly, with a sense of thriller-like menace and unpredictability…but the atmosphere and edgy uncertainty are soon displaced: the film works toward a series of plot twists that become increasingly more difficult to accept.  It’s as if the movie is making its way towards a destination – a denouement, a revelation, and end-point – even more inevitable than Freo.  (Philippa Hawker, The Age) 

http://movies.ninemsn.com.au/movie.aspx?id=115672
Bashford, Kerry.  Ninemsn.com.au
            This riveting film is not lacking ambition on any level — it is a stand alone film in a banner year of Australian entertainment (Kerry Bashford, Ninemsn)  \

http://www.taylormedia.com.au/pdf/review-sunday-telegraph.pdf
LePetit, Paul.  Sunday Telegraph, 25 February 2007 pg.99
            Jeremey Sims slips behind the camera to make this sometimes disturbing and claustophobi psychological thriller packed with good performances. (Paul LetPetit, Sunday Telegraph)

http://www.taylormedia.com.au/pdf/review-rolling-stone.pdf
Woolridge, Simon.  Rolling Stone Magazine, April 2007
            From the diatribe-as-dialogue script to the minimalist setting, it’s obvious that this is a stageplay adapted to the screen…but the package is saved by Steve Le Marquand as the Tall Thug.  Leeringly manipulative, Le Marquand justifies the film’s essential final twist.  (Simon Wooldridge, Rolling Stone) 

 

http://www.taylormedia.com.au/pdf/review-sunday-herald-sun.pdf
Schmidt, Kay.  Sunday Herald Sun, 25 February 2007 pg. 12
With solid performances from all five players and the concentration on dialogue and characertisation of a play, this is a late night rail journey for which a seat should be reserved. (Kay Schmidt, Sunday Herald Sun)

http://www.moviehole.net/reviews/20060823_last_train_to_freo.html
Morris, Clint. MovieHole.net
            All aboard for the best Australian film of the year – book yourself a seat on the “Last Train to Freo.” (Clint Morris, MovieHole) 

http://www.cinephilia.net.au/cine/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=3197
Hemingway, Bernard.  Cinephilia.net.au
            With its pared-down aesthetic and performative intensity Last Train to Freo is a bold and distinctively individual film.  (Bernard Hemingway, Cinephilia)

On-Line Presence

            Last Train to Freo has a decent but limited online presence currently.  A basic Google search returns five websites specifically about the movie, two of which are independent sites and three of which where Last Train to Freo is just one of many movies featured by the site.  However, beyond these sites and the occasional online newspaper article mentioning the movie, there is not much more significant information about the movie currently on the internet.  The most prominent websites are the following:

http://www.lasttraintofreo.com/
http://www.taylormedia.com.au/production_last_train_to_freo_synopsis.htm
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848592/
http://thecia.com.au/reviews/l/last-train-to-freo.shtml
http://au.movies.yahoo.com/Last+Train+to+Freo/movie/16758/

Film Synopsis and Commentary

            Last Train to Freo begins as two ex-cons enter the late night train at Midland Station of Perth, Western Australia, a largely poverty stricken suburb.  As they pass the time with unimportant chatter, the men demonstrate their unique relationship, dominated by the aggressive and bold nature of the Tall Thug (Steve Le Marquand).  Soon an attractive female law student, Lisa (Gigi Edgley), enters the train and the dynamic shifts, as all of the men’s attention is focused on her.  The Tall Thug immediately begins to compliment and attempt to talk to the woman, who begins by ignoring their presence.  As they become impossible to ignore she engages them and the Tall Thug’s immediate infatuation with her is clear.  The train is then joined by two new passengers and as the men continue to harass Lisa, Maureen (Gillian Jones) steps to her defense.  They all begin to reveal a little bit more about themselves as the tension eases, until Trev (Tom Budge) grabs the notebook of Simon (Glenn Hazeldine), sitting quietly in the back of the car.  The following minutes on the train are packed with tension as numerous revelations are made and relationships between passengers exposed.  Simon and Lisa explain that they are a couple and staged the late night train ride in order for Simon to study the interaction of “thugs” for his writing.  The Tall Thug prods and threatens Simon further as he is unsatisfied with this explanation for the staged train ride.  Here Simon’s true motives come clear as he explains the Tall Thug is the man who nearly killed his brother.  Emotions run high as the two relive and debate past events.  Violence continues to be a threat to the passengers, keeping tension high, and adding to the drama created as the dialogue evokes emotion, anger, and passion all the way to Freo. 

What is immediately unique about the Last Train to Freo is the way in which the drama is largely engulfed around real time dialogue between the characters with little props, action, or setting additions.  The film succeeds despite the challenging task of taking a one setting play onto the silver screen with higher expectations of reality bending storylines.  Although the Last Train to Freo is slow in drama and excitement at the outset, it fairly quickly builds tension and interest as the plot develops.  The basic premise of two overly confident thugs harassing other passengers on a train has attracted some criticism as simple and obviously adapted form a play.  However, it is also engaging as a fairly common experience that many have had or can imagine happening to themselves.  Last Train to Freo takes on an average and realistic experience but then adds a new twist and extraordinary element.  It is able to be an interesting and dramatic film in only one setting because of the script, but mainly due to the performances given by the actors.  The actors are able to capture the audience’s attention with their portrayal of the dynamic characters and bring the audience with them on their emotional rollercoaster ride on Transperth.   In today’s cinema climate of computer-animated graphics, Last Train to Freo is a distinctive Australian film driven on good writing and excellent acting, worthwhile of viewing for anyone interested in a thought-provoking drama. 

Critical Uptake of Film

            The critical uptake of Last Train to Freo has been overwhelmingly positive.  Although one can find the rare negative review, the majority of reviews from magazines, newspapers, and online, as evidenced above, speak very highly of the film, particularly the performances given by each of the actors.  Others in the industry demonstrated how well the film was critically received with nominating cast and crewmembers for 2006 awards with both the Australian Film Institute and Film Critics Circle of Australia. 
Despite being such a widely well-reviewed film Last Train to Freo received very little public and mainstream attention.  It’s opening weekend, the film was shown on eight screens, while on the same weekend, other Australian films, Kenny and Jindabyne, were seen on 105 and 73, respectively.  Similarly, Last Train to Freo grossed $102,726 total at the box office, while the top grossing Australian films of 2006 grossed much higher.  Happy Feet grossed $11.1 million, Kenny $7.6 million, and Ten Canoes $3.3 million. 
            With the exception of the New Zealand Film Festival, Last Train to Freo has only been released in Australia for general audiences.  However, despite the lack of commercial success in Australia and the absence of its international presence, Last Train to Freo does stand out as an Australian film due to it’s great critical uptake.  The lack of the film’s commercial success in Australia and abroad speaks to the nature of the film and the place of independent films in the Australian box office.  It is not representative of the Australian cinema place on the international spectrum

Production of Last Train to Freo
           
            The DVD release of Last Train to Freo contains a behind the scenes documentary on the making of the film which provides a great wealth of information on the production process.  The film was adapted from Reg Cribb’s play The Return.  Reg Cribb wrote the play after visiting Perth for his brother’s funeral and taking the Transperth train from Midland into the city.  He witnessed two men harassing the other passengers on the train and attempting to dominate the car with their witty remarks and threats.  This event sparked his interest and inspired him to write the play. 
         Last Train to Freo is a relatively low-budget film that was produced in many ways like the play it is modeled after.  Director Jeremy Sims explains, “A lot of the shots that we did in the film were very long; some of them were up to 20 minutes long! Unheard of. Indeed if we'd get to the end of those takes, the crew would spontaneously burst into applause at the end of it. We knew at that point we were bridging the gap between theatre and film.”  In order to make the train setting more realistic for the film, the crew built an exact replica of a Transperth carriage in order to ensure that all the details were believable.  They filmed both on this replica and real trains to create a flawless presentation. 
Once released, being a low-budget, independent film, one would expect that the film had a relatively low box office, which did become a reality.  The Last Train to Freo grossed $25,613 on its opening weekend, and had a total box office of $102,726. 

Jeremy Sims before Last Train to Freo

            Jeremy Sims, the director of Last Train to Freo, has been a well-known Australian actor ever since playing Mick in 1996’s Idiot Box.  Since then, he has earned a reputation as a well regarded actor, playing numerous roles on Australian TV, including Alex Taylor on the soap opera Chances, in films, and in the theatre. 
He has also been a very successful theatre director, regularly directing for The Sydney Theatre Company.  His 2004 production of Last Cab to Darwin with Reg Cribb met great critical uptake and toured nationally.  This project began as he directed Reg Cribb’s The Return with the Sydney Theatre Company and  then decided to make this play his film directorial debut with Last Train to Freo.  This film is the first time he has directed a feature film, but he is currently in the process of producing a film adaptation to the play Last Cab to Darwin

 

Last Train to Freo as a Social Realism Film
           
            Although the drama and tension of Last Train to Freo at times suggests that the film is somewhat of a psychological thriller, the subject matter of the film undoubtedly determines that it is a social realism film.  Many of the most culturally telling, interesting, and provocative films fall into the film genre of social realism, sometimes called social problem films. Simply stated, social realism films are about a societal problem, demonstrated through the perspective of a particular narrative plot line. As Garry Gillard states, “This type of film is described - not so much by film theorists or critics - as by social agencies such as sociology, psychology, criminology. It's defined not by its aesthetic or narrative form but by its content.”  Some of the recognized types of social realism films include “capital punishment, prison life, juvenile delinquency, poverty, marital conflict, family tension, and, to a lesser degree, racism” (Gillard).  These are all prevalent social issues, however, I would also add to this list abuse, sexism, homophobia, drug culture, and suicide, among many more.  Last Train to Freo very clearly fits this definition, dealing with class antagonisms, poverty, and homophobia.  The entirety of the drama created is through class-based assumptions about perpetrators of violence, mainly the Tall Thug and Trev.  It becomes very clear that the socially disenfranchised Tall Thug has a great desire to be a part of mainstream middle-class society and wants to be accepted by Lisa.  The plot develops as he continually attempts to convince her of his worth, and it is revealed that this has been the case for more than one situation in his life.
There is no requirement as to the message or ending of a film in order to be classified as social realism, however, there are popular strategies often used by filmmakers.  Neale points to the public enemy as one, but more importantly draws attention to a common thread (Neale 115).  He argues, “social problem films…tend as a rule to insist that the problems they deal with are not resolved, and which often replace the possible resolution of social problems with the actual resolution of personal ones” (Neale 116).  Social realism films are often tools to point out societal issues and provide dramatization, create awareness, foster discussion, or provide a particular perspective but are not often a source of proposed resolution.  This is certainly true of Last Train to Freo, which suggests no social solutions or resolution to the poverty and class distinctions that created the type of situation occurring on the train.  In fact, Last Train to Freo provides no real resolution to any of the characters either, but instead seems to provide a deeper understanding of the social situation they are all a part of.  In this way it also provokes the audience to think about this social realism film in the context of their own lives.   

 

Works Cited

This information was primarily collected from the following sources.  Any other sources are noted in the site.