WANDER – directed by April Mullen – written by Tim Doiron – SPOILERS
Arthur Bretnik (Aaron Eckhart) investigates conspiracies. He co-anchors a “deep web” podcast called The Thought Junction dedicated to all things conspiracy (Atlas Major is his on-air name) with his sidekick Jimmy Cleats (Tommy Lee Jones). The podcast discusses “…the unsettling number of Illuminati black operations that plague our country” (meaning the US. The film is set in the New Mexico desert).
Years previously, a car crash left Bretnik’s wife in a vegetative state and killed his daughter. Bretnik thinks he is the one who was targeted for death because of his investigative activities.
Then, right in his backyard (so to speak), a woman dies mysteriously and her mother calls the podcast begging for an investigation. To his credit, Arthur is suspicious when his sidekick encourages him to take the case, but $10,000 is persuasive when you’re making a living investigating insurance fraud in the desert.
Before the film begins, a dedication appears:
“To all indigenous people, black, and people of color and who have been displaced through border control on stolen land. May we expose government violences, propel change, and honor the voices of those who have been silenced. Wander was filmed on the homelands of the Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache peoples.”
Director April Mullen told Greg Srisavasdi of Deepest Dream that Eckhart was perfect for the role: “He came to the table with knowledge of conspiracies and being a warrior for the light and the silenced voices and a champion of that and just had brought to us the Illuminati chemtrails.“, she said. “[He] just had knowledge that Arthur needed to have, like this unwavering belief in all of the deepest fears that Arthur was going through.”
Wander was filmed in Carrizozo, New Mexico, about 80 kilometers from the Mexico/US border, just about where one might expect Wander to be.
Heather Graham gives a standout performance as Arthur’s lawyer, friend, and sometimes employer who makes Arthur further suspicious by starting to date a new-in-town FBI agent (Brendan Fehr). (It has not escaped my attention that this is the second movie Area 33 has reviewed with Heather Graham in it. This was not intentional, but since she is so good in these two, the blog will likely have a look at her next film, a horror flick from Daniel di Grado called “Oracle”.)
The film is pretty (if you like the desert) and Arthur is a fascinatingly over-medicated obsessive who typifies American anti-authority paranoia. Elsa the CIA agent (the name immediately brings to mind Ilsa of the SS) colludes with Jimmy the sidekick, and tries to destroy Arthur with partial truths. Occasionally, visual effect takes precedence over realism. In the opening scene, for instance, Zoe (Elizabeth Selby) climbs out of her wrecked pick-up truck at the Wander town limit and staggers forward a few steps until something blows a small hole in her chest and kills her. Just what made the truck crash is not apparent. The road is clear and the truck flips over for no reason in the middle of it. And if a government conspiracy wanted to kill someone with an implant, they might be a bit more subtle about it and have the implant stop her heart without leaving a mark.
WANDER can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. (Lots of Mullen’s films are on Amazon Prime. “Farhope Tower”, and “88” can be streamed. “Below Her Mouth”, “Rock Paper Scissors”, “Dead Before Dawn”, and “Gravy Train” are available for purchase or rental. “Badsville” can be streamed on Tubi.)