Noise

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PARK CITY -- It's clear from the first few minutes of Matthew Saville's "Noise" that this highly compelling first feature has no intention of being your average, run-of-the-mill thriller.

Set in a small Melbourne suburb where two possibly connected heinous crimes have been committed just before Christmas, the film, which received its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, kicks off with a wallop, then constantly confounds expectations by approaching its subject matter from fresh directions.

Factor in some neatly modulated performances and a dynamic sound design entirely fitting for a film titled "Noise," and you've got an import that could make itself heard in the specialty market, though there are times when the heavy dialect can put a strain on untrained ears.

That startling beginning takes place in a subway station, where a young woman (Maia Thomas), immersed in the music coming from her headphones, is oblivious to the familiar screeching of metal and rubber that announces the arrival of her train.

But she can't help but notice when a fellow passenger keels over and falls to the floor. When she goes to assist her, it is then that she realizes that everyone else in her car has been shot to death with the exception of one lone survivor who turns out to be the perp.

Meanwhile, in another subway station, a young constable (Brendan Cowell) is about to go up an escalator when he suddenly passes out, cutting open his forehead on the sharp metal step. He's diagnosed with tinnitus and applies for workers' compensation but his unsympathetic superior instead assigns him to mundane surveillance duty in a police caravan stationed near a second murder scene.

Screenwriter-director Saville might be working in the police procedural/thriller genres, but he has no interest in confining himself to the usual cat and/or mouse perspectives. He also extends his reach to the peripheral characters whose lives have been impacted by the tragic events in very different ways.

Production values are solid, but it's sound designer Emma Bortignon who deserves a special shout-out here, with a remarkable mix that effectively simulates that crippling ringing in Cowell's head.

Like many other things about "Noise," it immerses the viewer in some intriguing new places.
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