Directed by John Curran and starring Luke Bracey as Tom, Toby Jones as The Associate, Alex Malone as Terri-Lynne, Susie Porter as Abigail, and Martha Kate Morgan as Ruby, Mercy Road is an Australian thriller, rated MA 15+ with a run time of 85 mins. This film will be in select cinemas on 26 October 2023.
Mercy Road is a psychological thriller about a troubled father (Tom) who has done something vicious and impulsive and now drives hard, racing against time to save his missing daughter. The story is unclear when you meet Tom as he jumps into his truck, speeding away from the scene, wiping blood off his face. All the while as he drives, the story emerges that he's racing the clock to find his daughter Ruby at first, then rescue her from death. Details are unclear, with snippets of information slowly emerging through a series of phone calls from his office, his screaming ex-wife Terri, and a police negotiator who's convinced, along with his ex, that he has kidnapped his daughter. Like peeling the skin of an onion one layer at a time, the story slowly filters through. Hanging up on many a call, one mysterious caller gets Tom's attention. Calling himself The Associate, he lets Tom know he has kidnapped Ruby, and to get her back, Tom has to follow every instruction set by the Associate, including letting everyone think he has kidnapped his own daughter.
The whole film is predominantly set in the truck, with Luke Bracey at the helm, driving the tension, the mystery, the disorientation. He's sweaty, frantic, and constantly interrupted by the phone, but he's not giving much away, other than that he'd do anything to save his daughter. A daughter he doesn't really know, an ex who has no belief in him, and a situation where she only has 60 mins to live. Bracey does a good job at portraying a man who's frantic and at times disoriented that he doesn't know what is true anymore. He gives you the impression that perhaps he's gone a little haywire, and perhaps none of it is real, including the phone calls. Is it all in his head you wonder, as he unravels before your eyes. Unfortunately, his exhaustive performance is let down by a plot that fails miserably. A one-person drama set almost entirely in the car is not an easy one to carry, and a car crash waiting to happen.
The ending tries to be clever, giving you a glimmer of light, a realisation that tries to get you to run through the whole film in your head to make sense of the plot the clue is giving you. Unfortunately, as one has not been emotionally connected to this upcoming moment throughout the film, it just falls flat and deflated. What initially feels like a high-energy good mystery you could sink your teeth into; in the end loses its weight as it comes apart when it doesn't reach expectations. Susie Porter was a waste of talent as just the voice of the negotiator on the phone. In all, I think the spider has the best role in the whole film - short, intense and fearful, commanding your attention at all times.