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Film Review: Edge Of The World

Director:    Michael Haussman

Cast:    Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dominic Monaghan, Atiqah Hasiholom, Samo Rafael, Bront Palarae, Ralph Ineson, Jessie Ho

Rating:    Not Rated

Running Time:    103

Australian Distributor:    Digital / DVD through Signature Entertainment

 

This film is about the first white Rajah of Sarawak in Borneo, Sir James Brooke, a British explorer from the 19th century and shows his love of the land he’s discovered. What’s even more apparent is the love that filmmaker Michael Haussman has in showing the beauty of Borneo itself.   

James Brooke, played impressively here by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, was a weathered explorer who travelled to Borneo amid a non-violent power struggle being fought by two cousins. Brooke’s expedition which consists of two others, Arthur Crookshank (Dominic Monaghan) and Charlie (Otto Farant) arrives in Borneo and finds Brooke instantly in love with the world he finds. After helping cousins Badruddin (Samo Rafael) and Mahkota (Bront Palarae), and thereby squashing a rebellion, Brooke is named the Rajah of Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei.

History is riddled with violence and the story here is no exception, though, for a story about a man fighting the tradition of beheading your enemy, there is a distinct lack of aggression for the bulk of the film. Towards the start, we witness the brutality of which the indigenous communities are capable, but these instances fade into the background as we hone in on Brooke’s journey.

Haussman keeps these elements out as a way to enforce Brooke’s blindness to the savage capacity of those within his rule, holding them back until the finale at which time bloody carnage is shown. By reigning in the violence in such a way, Haussman ensures maximum impact, suddenly snapping the audience, like Brooke, out of the hedonistic dreamworld in which they have been existing.

A lot of the big drama is contained in the back half of the film, and even though that’s where it becomes more conventional, it’s also where it shows its crowd-pleasing element. The finale isn’t memorable in where it goes, narratively, but it almost gets there visually.   

Jonathan Rhys Meyers relishes the role of an action hero with a square jaw and a sensitivity for human rights (calling for the end of slavery and head-hunting).  From the supporting cast there’s fine work from Dominic Monaghan as Brooke’s second in command, while Princess Fatima (Atiqah Hasiholan) makes for a believable local princess who becomes Brooke’s political partner.

Cinematographer Jaime Feliu-Torres gets a lot of mileage out of the setting’s natural beauty and Haussman coaxes a strong performance out of Meyers, who keeps the whole thing anchored to a recognisable humanity. Gore aside, Edge of the World is an intriguing look at a little known historical period. The film is well produced and Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivers a believable portrayal of James Brooke.

To be released digitally on 7 July 2021

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