Living Dangerously [1993]

Australian director Peter Weir had made several excellent films before The Year of Living Dangerously was released to critical acclaim in 1983, but it was this moody tale of romance and political upheaval that bought Weir and star Mel Gibson their tickets to Hollywood. (Weir's next film was the 1985 Harrison Ford hit Witness.) Set in Indonesia in 1965, the film focuses on a group of Caucasian journalists and photographers who are in Jakarta to cover the political upheavals that are threatening to collapse the unstable government of President Sukarno. Gibson plays an Australian correspondent named Guy Hamilton who's determined to get the best story, and he's given invaluable assistance from Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt), a half-Indonesian, half-Australian photojournalist who knows the culture inside and out. Billy introduces Guy to Jill (Sigourney Weaver) and their romance develops in an atmosphere of political unrest and constant personal danger. This journalistic adventure is compelling in itself (and Hunt's gender-switching performance won her a much-deserved Oscar), but it's Weir's creation of a rich, authentically exotic locale that gives the movie its alluring and subtly mysterious atmosphere. A tale of tragedy and survival, it's also a story about fascinating people at a turbulent juncture of history, and the empathy they feel for each other and the culture that surrounds them. --Jeff Shannon

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