Dominic Rains (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) delivers subtle yet ultimately powerful work as the lead in Burn Country, a drama which is a blend of a fish out of water tale and a film noir driven thriller. Osman (Rains) is a former fixer who helped journalists navigate their way in Afghanistan, and now he’s found a new home in a small town in California. Melissa Leo is Gloria, a sheriff who provides Osman with a temporary roof over his head (she’s the mother of a journalist friend of Osman’s).
Believing a change of scenery will finally bring him peace and a bit more safety, Osman attempts to land a job at the local newspaper and ends up with a low paying crime reporter job. As he journeys deeper into the town’s mysteries, Osman becomes entranced by a theater actress (Rachel Brsonahan) and an eccentric local (James Franco) with criminal tendencies.
Inspired by the moral and thematic ambiguity of films from the 1970s, director Ian Olds (the filmmaker cites Night Moves as an influence for Burn Country) crafts an unpredictable and atmospheric thriller that takes us right into the complex mindset of Osman. Though Osman is filled with emotional turmoil, which simmers with almost every person he meets in town, Rains wisely doesn’t overplay his hand. By crafting his character with a more humanistic approach, Rains infuses Osman with a ton of depth and feeling.
Burn Country is a fictional tale, but the movie originates from a real place, as director Ian Olds found the narrative’s inspiration from his own experiences helming the documentary Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi.
Burn Country’s DVD doesn’t come with any special features, but it’s still worth a look, especially if you love intricately crafted thrillers.