Directed by: John Tatoulis
Actors: Peter Phelps, Carolyn Bock, William Zappa, Bradley Byquar
Also known as: Zona 39, Zone Thirty Nine
Description: This good-looking Australian sci-fi effort mixes the futuristic dystopia subgenre with elements of a psychological thriller to nice effect. Written by Deborah Parsons from a concept by director John Tatoulis, the film is basically a one-character affair, well-acted by lead Peter Phelps, who skillfully rises above generally sketchy supporting players.
The Federated Republic and the New Territories Union have been at war for 40 years, and the results are merely more killing. Industrialists from both sides got together and formed the Central Union, which negotiated peace between the warring groups. In exchange, they took control of communication. There are still mines all over the desert, and guards patrolling the borders along lines marked by the Central Union Treaty. Add to this the constant risk of toxic contamination, and you’ve got a really nasty situation.
The story focuses on a Central Union soldier, Leo Megaw (Phelps), who is sent to the desert to guard the remote border of Zone 39. Megaw is taking a hallucinatory drug called Novan, whose purpose was for soldiers on suicide missions to be able to spend their last night alive with the girl of their dreams. The trouble is, Megaw’s hallucinations are tinged with a good deal of grief, as his wife Ann (Carolyn Bock) was murdered by the government because she threatened to expose a conspiracy. Megaw is determined to get to the bottom of her murder, and hallucinations of her are the only things keeping him functional as the drug and the isolation take their toll.
There’s some gore and sex (both Bock and Phelps have full-frontal scenes), but the film is more serious-minded than others of its ilk. Most of Zone 39 is concerned with Megaw’s slow fall into insanity and his eventual awareness that the government has decided to kill the entire population with toxic contaminants. Tatoulis directs with skill, and tells a story well, while Phelps is an intriguing lead, playing the growing desperation of his situation in a compellingly understated manner. The production design is fairly convincing (although the voice-activated targeting system seems dubious) while avoiding the overbearing showiness endemic to the subgenre. In all, this is not a bad little movie, although its deliberate pacing may turn off the Mad Max crowd. The US release is from Phaedra Cinema
Review: “Zone 39” – a fortified outpost in the heart of all living hostile wasteland, situated right on the border areas, are controlled by rebel forces and the Federation. Here is the death of a soldier’s wife, Leo, who will soon decide for themselves which side of the border lies the real enemy.