While Noam Chomsky wrote copiously on the takeover of East Timor—the uncovered by Western media massacre of its people—this Australian film captures the very beginning of the conflict, the acquisition of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, by Indonesia for its abundant resources under the ill-conceived and unproven rally cry of "Communism." Deeming a foreign government "Communists" had worked for the Americans in SE Asia, why not the Indonesians? Who, it must be pointed out, were contemporaneously ruled by a venal and murderous dictator, Suharto, who had a track record of killing foreign and domestic journalists. This ruse essentially worked: the Indonesians used American-made helicopters and ships, paid for in British pounds. It was also rumored at the time (and in the film), later verified, that Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for the American Government led by Gerald Ford, was an advisor to the Indonesian dictator, Suharto. This film primarily concentrates on the disappearance of five Australian journalists who covered the beginning of the Indonesian invasion, and whose vanishing is being explored by a sixth, and somewhat unwilling, Australian journalist, Roger East, who is portrayed with nuance and gravitas by Anthony LaPaglia (in fact, I think this is one of his best films). His relationship with his job procurator and guide, Antonio, who has his agenda, is wonderfully conceived and realized.
The danger Mr. East wanders into is unexpected, although he was adequately warned; he feels at a gut level, even though experienced enough to know better, that his citizenship and white skin will render him bulletproof. LaPaglia telegraphs this Western arrogance in such a realistic and undramatic fashion that his subtlety makes the film much more believable, let alone watchable. As a contrast, the director goes to lengths to render the Timorese people, both the military and the citizens, to be more than props for a film whose focus is on the disappearance of the five white Australian journalists. The film is an excellent endeavor and one that is worth watching; I started it with rather modest expectations and was more than pleasantly surprised at its depth of acting and focus, highly recommended for those who enjoy political dramas and thrillers.