Backtrack Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Saban Films
Written and directed by Michael Petroni
2015, Rated R, 90 minutes
Theatrical and VOD release on February 26th, 2016
Adrien Brody as Peter Bower
Sam Neill as Duncan Stewart
Robin McLeavy as Barbara Henning
Bruce Spence as Felix
Evie died nearly a year ago, but Peter Bower can't let go. He believes it was his fault his daughter died; he took his eyes off her and her bicycle for just a moment that rainy morning, but that was all it took. He and his wife have relocated to a new town, necessitating a long train commute to work in Sydney, but he firmly wants to move on. It's just something about that train ride...something about his new patients...something about Elizabeth Valentine who keeps appearing in his office then disappearing...something about all of this isn't right. Figuring out why will take Peter back home, to the town and father he hasn't seen in years, and bring up memories he wished were dead and buried. But Elizabeth won't let him quit.
Peter is culpable in his daughter's death and his flatlining marriage, but as Backtrack progresses, we find out he was involved in a lot more. And the only way to escape his disturbing visions is to face up to his actions...but does even he know the full story?
Backtrack is well acted (Brody has resting sad face so he's always good as a tormented father), and the tension is thick as fog throughout the entire movie. Knowing there are secrets behind every corner but not knowing who is keeping them makes for an exciting, enthralling viewing experience. But my issue with this movie means I have to spoil the ending, so in short: it's a well-made movie, drags a bit in the middle, but well-acted and styled, dark/heavy creepy, not fun/popcorn scary. If you don't want to know any more, stop reading here.
The reason Peter doesn't really know why he's seeing these visions is because he's been traumatized; that night he saw his father rape and murder Elizabeth before tossing her body onto the train tracks to cover up the evidence. The newspaper shown in the movie reads that Elizabeth was missing for an astonishing 28 days before she is discovered amongst the crash victims. FOUR WEEKS. A child was missing for four weeks, tormented and tortured, and her story is reduced to a plot device so Adrian Brody can get over the death of his daughter. That sucks. If Backtrack is about getting to the truth, they failed.
Had her death been given the attention it deserved, this could have been a much stronger movie. Peter learning his father was actually a depraved killer and going on to find what other crimes he had committed would have been really interesting; this could have been a miniseries! His making right the atrocities of his father could have been his spiritual atonement for his role in Evie's death. It's a shame that doesn't happen. We're left with a shallow, “ready to face life again” moment that's as unsatisfying as knowing Bower probably got away with a lot more.
Perhaps we'll see a sequel where Robin McLeavy's Officer Henning is the lead and the story is willing to take us to those dark places the world so easily forgets. Maybe then the ghosts of those we've wronged will have their peace.