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The Years of Living Dangerously | Movie Review


The Year of Living Dangerously sets in the Sukarno-era Indonesia when communism caused ruptures in Indonesian political situation. The movie features Mel Gibson playing as an Australian journalist, Guy Hamilton, who is assigned to Indonesia. He is sent to Indonesia without proper preparation from his office. He literally starts from zero in the country. Foreign correspondent group in Jakarta also does not really welcome Hamilton.



At first, Hamilton finds it hard to report news happening in Indonesia. He cannot nail any essential interviews and can only report boring stories. However, after befriending with a half-Chinese dwarf photographer Billy Kwan (played by Linda Hunt), Hamilton can make some notable headlines. Kwan has a wide range of sources, from crooks to generals. As Hamilton’s name raise into prominence, he becomes widely known and being accepted by the foreign correspondent group in Indonesia. Kwan then introduces Hamilton to Jill Byrant, a British Embassy’s officer played by Sigourney Weaver, with whom Hamilton falls in love.


As the movie rolls, intern problems among Hamilton, Byrant and Kwan emerge as the Indonesian political and social condition worsens because Chinese Communist party provides Indonesian Communism Party (PKI) with arms to overthrow Sukarno. Then, each of Hamilton, Byrant and Kwan must make hard decision in response to the complicating situation among them.
Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) and Jill Byrant (Sigourney Weaver)

Overall, The Year of Living Dangerously provides its viewers, specifically journalist, with some basics of being foreign correspondents. It shows journalists the importance of networks and connections with locals (authorities or just laymen) as well as other foreign correspondence to smoothen their journalism duty.

However, the movie is overshadowed by the love story of Hamilton and Byrant. Their romance dominates the story so that it diminishes the importance of other crucial movie element like the setting of time. The romance becomes the spectacle in the movie. It fails audience’s expectation who seek to better understand about Indonesian history in the 1960s.
Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt)

Even so, the movie deserves to receive recognition because it shows us a brilliant acting of Linda Hunt who acts as a half-Chinese dwarf male photographer, Billy Kwan. Her acting is so soulful that audience can feel her empathy when watching Indonesian’s poverty and frustration to Sukarno. Therefore, it is no wonder that she won an Oscar for her role in the movie.

The Year of Living Dangerously is probably not the best movie if one wants to extensively understand Indonesia in the 1960s. Yet, it still provides audience with a unique view on Indonesia as seen from Hollywood’s spectacle. It is also probably not the best medium to wholly understand the essence of being foreign correspondents. But, it does show what foreign correspondents will face in a turbulent country. 

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