‘What Is Justice?’ Eric Bana and Robert Connolly Explain The Dry’s Morally Grey Sequel

‘What Is Justice?’ Eric Bana and Robert Connolly Explain The Dry’s Morally Grey Sequel

Few Australian movies have managed to break through to the collective consciousness quite like The Dry. Released in late 2020, the film succeeded in not only bringing audiences back to the cinemas but also becoming one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all time.

“On the other side of the pandemic, we weren’t sure what would happen. Everyone thought that cinemas would close,” director Robert Connolly told Lifehacker Australia. “[The Dry] really reinvigorated a sense that Australians love going to the movies and love seeing Australian stories.”

A sequel to The Dry was seemingly inevitable, and luckily, there was one ready to go in Jane Harper’s second Aaron Falk novel, Force of Nature.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 drops Australian Federal Police agent Aaron Falk in a vastly different environment to the first film, this time the wilderness of Victoria. Once there, Falk must work quickly to discover the fate of an informant who has become lost in the mountains while on a corporate retreat, all before a monster storm breaks.

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Eric Bana as Aaron Falk and Jacqueline McKenzie as Carmen in Force of Nature: The Dry 2 (Image: Roadshow)

As described by the team involved, it’s a film that manages to stick closely to the source material, while also feeling like an organic follow-up to what was established in the first The Dry film:

“Nothing could prepare me for how amazingly they managed to interweave the different storylines, honour the continuation of this extraordinary journey of Aaron Falk… and you get to see a side of Australia that you’ve never seen,” Jacqueline McKenzie, who stars as Falk’s police partner Carmen, said. “[Plus] it does not require you to have seen The Dry, it stands alone completely.”

That being said, Connolly added that the themes of the second The Dry movie build on those of the first:

“There’s ultimately quite a strong theme about what is a crime and what is justice?” he said.

“I often think crime films can be very black and white about things that are morally wrong… I think this film really does offer up a more complex, grey overview of crime and policing, which adds a kind of sophistication in the way it expands on some of the things that came out of the end of the first film and the psychological journey that Falk is on.”

For Eric Bana, returning as Aaron Falk offered the actor something he hadn’t had before.

“This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to reprise a role,” he said. “So it was kind of a bit of a cheat to have done the character development already and then be able to step back into his shoes. That was a real treat.”

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Eric Bana as Aaron Falk and Deborah-Lee Furness as Jill in Force of Nature: The Dry 2 (Image: Roadshow)

Force of Nature continues the same structure that was established in The Dry, with Falk grappling with an investigation in the present that somehow ties into his past. Adding these layers of backstory to Falk that weren’t seen in the original movie was a thoughtful process that came from “lots of conversations” between Bana and Connolly.

“You’re relying on the source material, you’re relying on the conversations that we’re having and then the bits that have been added to the script that weren’t in the book,” he explained. “Then it’s a case of internally trying to understand the character and trying to fill in the gaps for the audience but also leaving some elements very mysterious. Personally, I really love the ending of the film [and] where we leave Aaron. There’s kind of something almost spiritual about that.”

Bana’s co-stars said the actor’s commitment to the role was clear as early as the initial cast meetings and table read.

“He was so calm. He kind of just sat back and observed which is what Aaron Falk does in the movie,” Robin McLeavy said. “I think he had begun that process already of observing and not interacting when it wasn’t necessary.”

While Falk is the character that ties the two films together, Force of Nature introduces an entirely new crop of characters to the mix, in an almost anthology-style akin to Knives Out or an Agatha Christie story.

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Sisi Stringer as Beth in Force of Nature: The Dry 2 (Image: Roadshow)

“There’s the story of these five women in the bush,” Connolly said, expanding on the themes of the film. “There are deep themes about the collaboration and the teamwork and the ability to navigate the crisis that they find themselves in. I love that kind of survival genre.”

Making up that group, alongside McLeavy, is a powerhouse collective of Australian talent: Anna Torv, Sisi Stringer, Lucy Ansell and Deborah-Lee Furness.

While some of the characters in the group find themselves meeting for the first time in this life-or-death situation, Stringer and Ansell’s characters are sisters, and their dynamic formed quite organically off-screen.

“Because we are of the same generation, like we share a language, we share a culture, we understand, we have the same points of reference of the community and being black people in Australia,” Stringer explained. “So as soon as we connected on that stuff, we were like, oh, our minds and hearts and souls are in line.”

Another important character in Force of Nature is the new landscape. Abandoning the drought-ridden plains of the first film, The Dry 2 is set amongst lush green mountain ranges, which, as the film quickly establishes, can be equally as harsh.

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Robin McLeavy as Lauren in Force of Nature: The Dry 2 (Image: Roadshow)

Despite this tough terrain, the team said they didn’t undertake any special training for filming in the wilderness.

“We did have experts bushwalking and people who know how you survive out there help with some of that strategic stuff. But no training. I mean, it was tough. It was winter and we were filming in very remote places,” Connolly said.

“They had to make it really clear to the crew and the cast that there really wasn’t much they could do for anyone and that we really had to look after ourselves and each other,” Bana said. “Which was actually a really beautiful message and a good way to start the film because it meant that everyone who was involved knew exactly what was in store for them and we attracted the right people accordingly.”

“I think the best part is that our characters are not supposed to be trained. They’re not Bear Grylls. It meant it took the pressure off us,” Ansell said.

“We could just exist in the environment and be smashed by it, that was the organicness we needed for the scene,” Stringer added.

Fans of Harper’s novels will know that Aaron Falk’s story has a third part, but Connolly said there aren’t any plans to adapt it right now. It all depends on whether The Dry 2 can be another force of nature at the cinema.

“We do feel very strongly that Force of Nature only happened because Australian audiences got behind us with The Dry,” Connolly said. “Cinemas, audiences, the media, everyone really backed The Dry and helped galvanise cinema together and that allowed us to do this. So, in some ways, audiences have a bit of ownership of how this sequel actually happened.”

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 when it opens in Australian cinemas on February 8.

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