Title – Nitram (2021)
Director – Justin Kurzel (Macbeth)
Cast – Caleb Landry Jones, Essie Davis, Judy Davis, Anthony LaPaglia
Plot – An exploration of the life of infamous Australian mass murderer Martin Bryant/Nitram (Landy Jones) in the lead up to his horrific act that lead to the killing of 35 innocent civilians at the Port Arthur site in Tasmania.
“When he was a little boy we used to play a game”
Review by Eddie on 01/12/2021
Tackling one of the rawest subject matters in Australia history, Nitram is an unnerving yet delicately made and acted drama exploring the life of infamous Tasmanian mass murderer Martin Bryant, a man who is responsible for the cold blooded and nightmarish Port Arthur massacre of 1996.
An incident that shocked the usually peaceful lands down under and forever changed the gun laws of the nation, Bryant’s horrific act isn’t an incident many would care to revisit but thanks to the work of director Justin Kurzel and his awards worthy leading man Caleb Landry Jones, Nitram never veers into territory that is aimed at pure shock value or an exploration that tries to offer a sympathetic few to what made Bryant into the man he became.
Refraining from venturing deep into the actual incident itself or the aftermath of Bryant’s actions, Nitram (the name used sparingly throughout the film for Jones’s character) is about as delicate as a film could be about the life of a tormented and lonely soul, one who was clearly unable to live an everyday life with his parents (played well by Australian icons Judy Davis and a nearly unrecognizable Anthony LaPaglia) and then in his friendship with fellow recluse Helen (played by Essie Davis).
Similar in style and tone to Kurzel’s most revered work, his exploration of another dark chapter in Australia’s history, Snowtown, Nitram is an unflashy film built around its carefully constructed dialogue and everyday humans that for all intents and purposes are battling too stay afloat mentally and physically but while Kurzel finds himself back in form after the misguided Assassin’s Creed and the rather disappointing True History of the Kelly Gang, the work of Landry Jones in his most difficult role to date should go down as one of the best in an Australian production in the last decade.
Often relegated to key bit parts in memorable films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out or The Florida Project, it might not be a joyful role but Jones is a revelation in his portrayal of Bryant as the Texan born actor morphs into the skin of a character that wouldn’t have been easy to come to terms, with the talented performer deserving of his Cannes Film Festival Best Actor win earlier this year.
Some may wonder no matter what at why exactly Nitram needed too be made but while it will undoubtedly be a film some need to avoid watching, Kurzel has created the Australian film of the year with a carefully considered and haunting examination of a human soul lost beyond repair.
Final Say –
It’s not easy viewing and may be too real and raw for some but Nitram manages to tackle an extremely controversial subject matter in a masterful way and features a career defining performance from Caleb Landry Jones.
4 1/2 surfboards out of 5