Last Train to Freo

September 14th, 2006 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Directed by Jeremy Sims

Starring Steve Le Marquand, Tom Budge, Gigi Edgley

Some movies deal with alien invasions and global-scale natural disasters, capturing the pop culture zeitgeist with history-defining moments that concern or attract the notice of the entire human race.

Some zero in on a handful of people and slowly reveal the goings on behind the closed doors of their hearts. Nowhere is the small school of filmmaking more apparent than in Last Train to Freo, a psychological drama about a train trip from Midland to Fremantle. Five people board the train during the midnight journey, all of them have secrets and all of them will leave the train transformed.

Director Jeremy Sims (of Idiot Box, Liquid Bridge and numerous TV series credits) has been a director/producer for ten years and Last Train is his brainchild from start to finish — just the way he likes it.

"I started [production company] Pork Chop when I was 30," Sims tells Xpress during the movie’s Perth promotional tour, "and the megalomaniac in me enjoyed the process of putting it all together, the eclectic skills you need to do it. Acting’s a very particular job and I’m not good at sitting around, not telling people how to do things better."

So with such a controlling temperament, why hasn’t Sims driven his career into global stardom like fellow West Australians Heath Ledger and Hugh Jackman?

"There are two possible answers. A; I’m not marketable like that. B; It’s probably more that I never really pursued it. I’ve got a real aversion to the whole ‘buff me up and market me’, which Heath does as well but Hugh doesn’t. What I don’t have is any ambition to go and live in LA and make films about a culture that’s not mine."

A highly regarded theatre director and producer, Last Train to Freo is Sims’ first time behind the camera on a film. "The jury’s out on which I prefer until I do a film with lots of locations because this was a real halfway house," he thinks. "I had one set and five actors. I shot it linearly so it was quite theatrical anyway. It was like rehearsing a play and capturing it in little bits."

Someone used to being in front of the camera is Last Train’s female protagonist, Perth-born Gigi Edgley. After a four-year stint on the Australian set of cult sci-fi series Farscape as alien Chiana, a psychodrama set on a Perth train must have been literally another world.

"It’s crazy and it’s big and there’s millions of dollars in it," Edgley says of Farscape. "Three and a half hours of makeup every day, 16 hours a day. To go from aliens and deep space to four or five weeks on a train under fluoro lights was very surreal. There’s nowhere to hide and it was very intimidating and very intense."

Edgley’s also found films a liberating experience. The mad rush of getting a TV show out the door — while fun — can be less of an actor’s medium. "I don’t mind what form the roles I do take but now I want to fall into some juicy films because the turnaround on TV is so fast," she says. "Sometimes you’re shooting two or three episodes at once and it can be hard hold on to the legitimacy of your character."

Then there’s the skewing quality arc of TV. Although the medium has seen a recent resurgence in quality the likes of which has even Hollywood worried, the lower rungs of the ladder mean pickings for an actress with something to say can be slim.

"I just want to tell stories that are worthwhile," Edgley explain. "I see so many TV channels of nonsense. They spend a lot of money on tits and arse and it’s shocking what we’ll succumb to. When you’re an actor you read a script a day and apart from Freo there was one other last year that rocked my world."

What remains to be seen is whether Freo will rock the world of Perth audiences and beyond. Like the first thrill Sydneysiders felt seeing their backyards in Hollywood blockbusters around the late 90’s, there’s a strong novelty factor hearing the familiar recorded announcements of station arrivals and ‘doors closing’ warnings, but Sims isn’t interested in making the definitive Perth story.

The Midland-Fremantle line is only the backdrop as five very different lives collide. The film looks and behaves like a thriller as two deadbeats (Le Marquand and Budge) terrorise the other passengers.

But as it progresses in real time on a night the guards are on strike (how Transperth agreed to that must be a story in itself), Last Train turns into a psychological drama as the gathering turns out not to be less a coincidence than we thought.

Taut and disturbing, melodrama during the ending makes it buckle a little, but Last Train to Freo will keep you engrossed.

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