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Eric Bana: 'Dry 2' mystery dredges up past trauma for investigator Aaron Falk

Jacqueline McKenzie and Eric Bana star in "Force of Nature: The Dry 2," in theaters Friday. Photo courtesy of IFC Films
1 of 5 | Jacqueline McKenzie and Eric Bana star in "Force of Nature: The Dry 2," in theaters Friday. Photo courtesy of IFC Films

NEW YORK, May 9 (UPI) -- Eric Bana says the missing-persons case that his character tackles in the new mystery movie, Force of Nature: The Dry 2, dredges up a long-buried trauma from the past of Australian federal agent Aaron Falk.

Based on Jane Harper's novels, the sequel to 2020's The Dry opens in theaters Friday.

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It follows Falk and his partner, Carmen Cooper (Jacqueline McKenzie), as they try to find Alice (Anna Torv), a troubled woman who disappears on a corporate hiking retreat with colleagues in the wilderness of the Giralang Ranges shortly before a big storm is set to arrive.

Adding to the tension is that these are the same woods in which Aaron's mother was critically injured when she fell after becoming separated from Aaron and his father during an outing when he was a boy.

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"He's been in the job for a long time, and I guess is very good at what he does, very professional, so he'd like to think that it's having no effect," Bana, 55, told UPI in a Zoom interview Tuesday.

"The beauty of making a film is you get an insight into a character, into their internal thoughts and emotions that we don't get in real life and, so, we just wanted to get a little window.

"We knew that the backstory of what happened to his mother and why it would give him a sense of responsibility towards Alice," added the actor, who is known for his roles in Troy, Black Hawk Down, Hulk, The Boleyn Sisters and Dirty John.

Aaron is haunted by that long-ago, desperate search for his mother, but he also feels a sense of guilt, since he and Carmen had been pressuring Alice to secretly make copies of company records so they could build a criminal case against her employers.

"It also makes him question, not only his job, but the way he goes about his job and, in fact, the ethics of the entire operation and the way they go about handling informants and witnesses," Bana said.

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"She's quite compromised and he understands that, and he's willing to leverage that to get what he needs," he added about Alice.

"I guess that's just the way that world works and it's effectivem and I think he so detests the white-collar crime that the organization is caught up in that he can justify quite easily."

Almost everyone has a grudge against the prickly Alice, which makes the job of finding out what actually happened to her all the more difficult.

While it's possible she is lost or hurt, it is also conceivable that she took her own life or someone murdered her.

"You can have the audience suspect this person more, and then throw it back this way. You can actually hide the killer under people's noses by making it really obvious [that] the audience will immediately go, 'Well, it can't be that person,'" Bana said. "It's a fun genre."

Knowing the terrain because of his previous experience with his mom helps Aaron figure out what happened to Alice after the women with whom she was with on the hike tell him conflicting stories.

"The assumption from the local police is that he's a fish out of water when, in fact, he's someone who's very very comfortable in the landscape and grew up there, which I thought was a nice little detail," Bana said.

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The movie is a powerful reminder that no matter how advanced society becomes, people are still at the mercy of Mother Nature.

"It's something that, as Australians, we just intrinsically understand," Bana said.

"Three or four times a year, we get beaten over the head by nature. It doesn't matter where we live," he added. "At the core of a lot of our personalities is this notion that we are subservient to nature, and whatever it throws at us keeps us in check, almost."

Bana said he loves how Harper pays such close attention to nature and landscape in her novels.

"If this didn't have such an epic setting, I'm not sure we would have tried to make it. For the big screen, it is an essential character and essential part of the story," he added.

Harper's next Falk book, Exiles, is set at a food festival in a wine-growing region of South Australia. Bana doesn't know yet if he will be a part of a film adaptation of it.

"We haven't really considered it seriously," he said.

"I actually really also love, without giving anything away, I how this film ends. I think whichever way you go, it would be OK."

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Deborra-Lee Furness, Robin McLeavy, Sisi Stringer, Lucy Ansell, Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor, Richard Roxburgh, Tony Briggs and Kenneth Radley co-star.

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