Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is not as narratively tight as its predecessor but still delivers a moody mystery.
The Dry (2020) was a resounding success. The impending COVID-19 lockdown meant a lack of competition coming in from Hollywood, leaving adamant space for the film to thrive. With aid from excellent reviews and word-of-mouth from audiences, The Dry raked in an impressive $20 million at the Australian box office.
Based on Jane Harper’s sequel novel, Force of Nature: The Dry 2 sees five women head out on a remote hiking retreat, but when only four return, each tells Detective Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) a different story. Falk is desperate to discern the truth as his concurrent investigation in financial crimes is reliant on inside information from Alice (Anna Torv) who did not make it out of the forest.
The wet mountain range evokes such a different mood to the outback from The Dry but is just as much an exceptional use of location. Shot in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley, director Robert Connolly twists the gentle hills and dense greenery into something frightening. As the women begin disappearing further into the forest, Connolly concentrates on the thundering waterfalls, crunching leaves, and dark tree trunks with their sprawling limbs across the forest floor.
Force of Nature weaves multiple storylines: the hiking trip before Alice goes missing, the investigation into the retreat’s company, and an unresolved case involving a serial killer who snatched and kept his victims somewhere in the forest. Navigating the financial crimes jargon and keeping pace with each investigation becomes unengaging and ultimately weighs the film down. The Dry was so narratively tight it’s hard not to make a comparison, but the talented cast and tense dynamic between our five hikers keep Force of Nature afloat.
Each of these women has something to hide and butt heads trying to protect their secrets. Alice, our missing person, is rather unlikeable, fuelling arguments to gain a sense of control over the group and thwart group leader Jill’s (Deborra-Lee Furness) dogmatic command. Some of the dialogue makes their heated disputes feel like a very wet episode of Survivor, but Torv and Furness in particular are great at reeling in the melodrama.
Bana also delivers another meditative performance as Falk. Force of Nature helps the audience better understand his sense of urgency within the A plot as it draws parallels from his childhood. We flashback to a young Falk hiking with his parents through the same patch of forest when his mother goes missing and he and his father must tear through the trees to find her. While unnecessary within the mass web of correlating storylines, it gives Falk another personal connection to the case.
Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is an inferior follow-up to The Dry but still delivers a somewhat engrossing mystery and an impressive sense of place.
Force of Nature: The Dry 2 will be released in Australian cinemas on February 8, 2024. In the US, the film will have a limited theatrical release on April 19. Read all our film and TV reviews!