If you're looking for trouble in today's thrillers, the quickest way to find it is by strapping on a backpack. At least that's according to Wolf Creek, Hostel and now Gone, a competent if unsurprising debut from director Ringan Ledwidge. Heads are messed with rather than bodies in this Outback odyssey, though it does end up painting itself into a crimson-coloured corner. Still, the tension's undeniable as American traveller Scott Mechlowicz slyly drives a wedge between Brit couple Shaun Evans and Amelia Warner.
En route to meeting girlfriend Sophie (Warner), everylad Scouser Alex (Evans) is befriended by enigmatic drifter Taylor (Mechlowicz). Cue a night on the tiles whose legacy is a Polaroid of Alex snuggled up with a lass who isn't Sophie. The incriminating snap becomes part of Taylor's slow-burning strategy for parting girlfriend from boyfriend when the trio hit the road.
"CHAFING AGAINST AUDIENCE SYMPATHY"
Unlike most former ad-makers, Ledwidge isn't over-eager to cut to the chase. Soundtrack rumbles and visual portents (billowing tumbleweeds, dead kangaroos) are more his style. Trouble is, he milks the build-up too long, raising expectation to a level that the clichéd climax can't satisfy. Meanwhile, you have a hero whose paranoid whinings chafe against audience sympathy, plus a heroine who isn't quite reduced to a screaming stereotype but still makes some forehead-slapping decisions. Luckily, Mechlowicz is one of the more personable movie sociopaths to come along in a while, his cool menace the thing that really keeps Gone going. If only it had taken the characters' lead and strayed further from the beaten track...
Gone is released in UK cinemas on Friday 9th March 2007.