FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2 movie poster | ©2024 IFC Films

Rating: R
Stars: Eric Bana, Anna Torv, Deborra-Lee Furness, Robin McLeavy, Sisi Stringer, Lucy Ansell, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Richard Roxburgh, Tony Briggs, Kenneth Radley, Archie Thomson, Ash Ricardo, Ingrid Torelli, Matilda Pawsey
Writer: Robert Connolly, based on the novel FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper
Director: Robert Connolly
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: May 10, 2024 (theatrical and Prime Video)

Like 2022’s THE DRY, the new film FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2 stars Eric Bana as Australian Federal Police Detective Aaron Falk. Both movies are directed and scripted by Robert Connolly, based on novels by Jane Harper.

However, where THE DRY felt literary and character-driven, FORCE OF NATURE seems much more like a police procedural, even with two different tracks of flashbacks. The good and bad news is that it is not only unnecessary to have seen THE DRY to follow FORCE OF NATURE, but memory of the earlier movie may impede appreciation of the current one.

At the beginning of FORCE OF NATURE, four women stagger out of an Australian forest, calling for help. We will soon learn that they were on a corporate team-building mission and got terribly lost.

Jill (Deborra-Lee Furness) is the team leader, married to wealthy company owner Daniel (Richard Roxburgh). Lauren (Robin McLeavy) is the single mom of Rebecca (Matilda Pawsey). Beth (Sisi Stringer) and Bree (Lucy Ansell) are sisters.

The fifth member of the group, Alice (Anna Torv), is missing. This brings in Aaron and his current work partner Carmen (Jacqueline McKenzie) in to investigate. What are two financial crimes Federal investigators doing out here in the woods? They’re trying not to let anyone know that Alice has been their reluctant informant, who is supposed to give them an incriminating thumb drive in exchange for her freedom.

Aaron has some compassion for Alice, as well as guilt for pushing her so hard. Carmen just wants to get the job done. We follow them as they try to work out where Alice is and what may have happened to her. This is interwoven with scenes of the five women on their ill-fated excursion, and Aaron’s memories of visiting the area long ago as a boy (Archie Thomson) with his parents (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor and Ash Ricardo).

FORCE OF NATURE holds our attention well enough as we try to guess what’s happened and why. The performers are all strong, with Bana embodying compassion and decency, and Torv conveying impatient competence.

The footage of the mountainous forest is consistently astounding, looking so enormous and primal that we half-expect a T-Rex to emerge from behind one of the giant trees.

But where THE DRY made us feel the weight of the past – Aaron’s and everyone else’s – FORCE OF NATURE never evokes that sense of personal history impacting the present. Nothing about the previous film is mentioned here. Even Aaron’s relationship with the region doesn’t matter the way it seems like it should (especially given the amount of time spent on establishing it); meanwhile, two mystery subplots go unexplained through the finale.

FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2 is a great-looking movie that feels more satisfactory when viewed as a really well-made, well-cast supersized TV episode than as a standalone or sequel drama.

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