Australian independent crime thrillerStranger,” written and directed by Thomas M. Wright, was a surprise hit for Netflix.
with Joel Edgerton produced and starred in, the film was acquired by the streamer at Cannes. Now playing online, it has reached #4 worldwide on Netflix and is in the top 10 in 54 countries.
The film is based on Kate Kyriacou’s book The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Marcombe’s Killer and is a fictionalized account of the real-life hunt for the killer of a 13-year-old boy who was abducted on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland in 2003 and later murdered. Brett Peter Cowan, who was finally caught in 2011, was found guilty of murder after a trial in 2014.
Produced by See-Saw Films, Anonymous Content and Blue Tongue Films, the film is very different from the actual events. It changes names, adds characters, and only briefly references the actual crime, without depicting the crime scenes.
Instead, the focus is on an intense game of cat-and-mouse between undercover detective Mark Frame (Egerton), who befriends murder suspect Henry Teague (Sean Harris), gaining his trust, leading to him eventually confessing to crime. The basis of the plot is their difficult friendship.
“No one is more surprised by the success than we are,” said Egerton Diversity. Egerton, who optioned the book and produced the film, is set in South Australia. “We didn’t do press or red carpet, but this niche film is finding an audience all over the world.”
It’s limited theatrical release in Australia before debuting on Netflix attracted media attention when Morecombe’s parents protested what they believed was the use of their son’s story. “We have decided to respectfully withdraw from the dispute,” said Egerton. “We wanted to honor the police operatives and focus on the investigation. Basically, it’s a movie about two men who are constantly lying to each other. It is an exercise in prolonged tension.’
The Stranger was recently nominated for 11 AACTA Awards, including Best Picture, as well as director and screenplay for Wright and acting nominations for Edgerton and Harris. Egerton vows to campaign for the film during awards season. “Maybe I’m trying to put up a sandwich board and stand on a street corner saying here’s this little movie that’s exciting and entertaining, but it would be great to have that recognized. This is a film that found its audience through word of mouth,” he said.
Netflix has enjoyed recent success with Australian content. Other hits include Chris Hemsworth’s reboot of the beloved Heartbreak High series, Spiderhead, and the #1 worldwide action movie Interceptor this year.