Back in 2015 I bought my 4×4 Holden Colorado, hit the road and trekked across the Nullarbor. With little 4×4 experience and zero recovery gear, I did a few off-road tracks but took a lot of caution. After spending a night at Cocklebiddy, the servo attendant told me about Twilight Cove, a great fishing spot 40km down the back of Cocklebiddy. “A bit rough” was how he described the track, which I took as rocky, not sandy. So off I went, with new 4X4 at risk of “a few scratches”, as I was told by the attendant. On a narrow part of the track in dense scrub, I came around a corner and drove straight into sand dunes. I was bogged straight away. Luckily for me, I had a lot of protein bars, a lot of protein shakes and 20 litres of water. While I should never really have taken the track, and given I had no information about it whatsoever, and I should have at least asked the attendant more questions, I was prepared to survive if I did get stuck anywhere.

Not everyone can say the same.

In the same year, only a month earlier than my adventure, American couple Wade Kelly and Lisa Sachs also got stranded in the outback. The results of this nightmare left Wade dead and Lisa nearly so, only surviving after being found on the brink of death by a farmer. Outback is based on the true story of what the couple went through, how they found themselves in that predicament and what they had to try and survive.

In Outback, Lisa and Wade are driving to Uluru from Sydney, using only Wade’s phone GPS. Google Maps, Wayz, or whichever app you choose, a phones GPS’ is often the equivalent to a route mapped out by Mr. Squiggle with a blindfold on after ten shots of tequila. Wade’s phone can’t cope with the heavy demands associated with tracking your location in the Outback and continually re-routes, causing all kinds of headaches. Before Lisa and Wade know it, they’re lost.

Outback is a frustrating watch at times, not because it’s bad, quite the contrary, but because by living in this ‘sunburnt’ country, we know better. Every scene on the road and in the car at the beginning of their journey to Uluru, I was pulling what was left of my hair out thinking “TAKE SOME BLOODY WATER WITH YOU”. 

I have to credit co-writer Brien Kelly and co-writer/director Mike Green here, Outback is a smart, well written, self-aware film.  It uses the environment very well to create isolation, fear, and tension. The film focuses on sounds and lighting to help make for the lack of drama. While being lost in the outback is dramatic, it doesn’t make for a great lot of excitement on film. But I felt that it was clear that Kelly and Green were aware of this and made sure that they used whatever was at their disposal to its total effect.

The cinematography is also good. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Nekrotronic cinematographer Tim Nagle taking the camera by the reins in Outback, creating some very fine work. I’ve said of several films in the past, that it’s hard to stuff up your cinematography when you’re shooting in the outback and I’m constantly being proved right.

Lead star Lauren Lofberg does well as Lisa. She’s quite believable as a confused young woman who’s not too sure what she wants for her future. She is constantly worried about getting stranded in the outback. But she is constantly reassured by her boyfriend Wade, played convincingly here by Taylor Wiese. Wade is a sweetheart when it comes to Lisa, but still, he’s the alpha male that doesn’t need to listen to his girlfriend, even when she clearly has her head more screwed on that he does. Weise, whose American accent is a little off at times, plays Wade as someone who is clearly dedicated to Lisa, and his dedication is part of what keeps her alive.

Quite often, the true stories behind the films that they may be based on, aren’t as exciting if told as it happened. Scenes and events can often be dramatized to create a bit more tension, drama or excitement. While I couldn’t find too much information on the real Lisa and Wade, it seems that Outback stuck to the story – as it’s really just the Lord of the Rings without the fantastical creatures – it’s a whole lot of walking. There doesn’t seem to be any added or fictionalized scenes.

Outback isn’t a perfect film, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good script that been well executed and brought to life by good actors and a tight crew. It’s raw, real and shows how easy getting lost can be.

Director: Mike Green

Cast: Brendan Donoghue, Lauren Lofberg, Taylor Wiese

Writers: Mike Green, Brien Kelly