Aussie actor Josh McConville has been quietly plying his trade for years now, delivering rock solid turns in unfortunately little seen local indies. His work in films like the ingenious sci-fi charmer The Infinite Man and the viciously brilliant bikie film 1% was nothing short of exceptional, while his brief comedic appearances in Down Under, Top End Wedding and The Merger have highlighted an actor of great range.
With his latest effort, Escape And Evasion, McConville gets his best showcase yet, and the actor absolutely blows it out of the water, hitting every point on the emotional map with gritty aplomb, and creating a rich, complex, difficult but highly sympathetic character in the process. While inventive writer/director Storm Ashwood (The School) doesn’t hold back on the flash and the pizazz, he also sensibly uses McConville’s performance to anchor the action, which gives Escape And Evasion its rich sense of humanity.
McConville is Seth, an ex-soldier debilitated by a burning case of PTSD. His relationship with his ex-wife and daughter is shattered, and he can barely come to terms with what his time in the military has done to him. When a determined journalist (Bonnie Sveen) comes knocking, we slowly learn – through flashbacks – what has pushed Seth to the edge. An operation in Burma to reign in an officer (the perfectly cast Steve Le Marquand, who brings requisite menace and mania to the role) gone rogue in the jungle is quickly delineated as a mess, with Seth and his men (strong work from Firass Dirani and Hugh Sheridan) instantly slapped in the middle of a physical and moral firestorm.
Thanks to Storm Ashwood’s ambitious choppers-and-gunplay direction (and fairly ample budget, by the look of things) and daring range of influences (Apocalypse Now looms large), Escape And Evasion easily busts free of its Aussie indie underpinnings and looks and feels like something far bigger. The film also has something to say, with Ashwood’s righteous anger about the mistreatment of ex-soldiers and the prevalence of PTSD an obvious driving force behind Escape And Evasion. Superbly performed, exciting, moving and meaningful to boot, Escape And Evasion is a cinematic tour of duty worth taking.