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Out Of The Blue

Karl Urban in Out Of The Blue

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary from director Robert Sarkies and author Bill O’Brien (who wrote the book on the events that the film is based on); ‘The Tragedy’ featurette; ‘Honouring Aramoana’ featurette; The Making of ‘Out Of the Blue’; Cast and crew interviews – Including Karl Urban; Audition interviews; Original news footage covering the tragedy; Photo Gallery.

ON November 13, 1990, reclusive gun enthusiast David Gray went on a killing spree in the pictureseque New Zealand town of Aramoana that claimed 13 lives, including women and children.

Robert Sarkies’ low-budget film Out Of The Blue chronicles these horrific events in the same way that Paul Greengrass’ United 93 took a look at the events of September 11, 2001. It’s a taut, gripping and emotionally devastating experience of extremely high quality.

Sarkies shot the film in a neighbouring town to Aramoana and based a lot of the material on survivors’ accounts. He also remains careful not to exploit, sensationalise or fall prey to gushing sentimentalism.

As a result, the film plays out with almost documentary-style authenticity, beginning with shots of the various characters going about their daily routines and offering brief insights into Gray’s mounting rage. When he eventually starts shooting his neighbours in cold-blooded fashion (triggered by the most inauspicious of confrontations), the effects are brutal and devastating.

Thereafter, the film becomes a taut race against time as the Aramoana police – including Karl Urban’s sensitive family man – attempt to hunt down Gray, while remaining careful to keep themselves and local residents out of the line of fire.

Of the performances, Urban is excellent as the family man struggling to cope with the devastation unfolding around him, while veteran actress Lois Dawn is brilliant as an elderly George Cross winner caught in the crossfire. And Matthew Sunderland is suitably chilling as Gray, only ever hinting at the reasons why he decided to go on the spree.

It’s to the film’s advantage that Sarkies doesn’t seek to explain his reasons or understand his motivations, rather allowing his actions to unfold in a matter-of-fact, detached kind of way. As a result, audiences must arrive at their own conclusions, whilst reflecting on the numerous news stories from around the world of men that have carried out similarly devastating sprees.

Aramoana’s story is all the more devastating because of the tranquility and beauty of its location: a point that’s not missed by the director, who includes many shots of the surrounding environment. It serves as a telling reminder of how sudden and random such acts of violence can be – and that nowhere is as safe as it should be.

As with a lot of films that recount real events, there are the obvious questions over whether a film of this nature should ever be made for fear of glorifying the wrong elements but Sarkies cleverly avoids such criticisms to deliver a thoughtful, sobering and genuinely moving experience.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 100mins
UK DVD Release Date: April 28, 2008