ERIC Bana returns as detective Aaron Falk in Force of Nature: The Dry 2, in which five women participate in a hiking retreat but only four come out the other side.

Federal agents Falk and Carmen Cooper (Jacqueline McKenzie) head into the mountains hoping to find their informant still alive.

One of the biggest Australian box-office hits in recent years was crime drama The Dry, based on the novel of the same name by Jane Harper and starring Eric Bana as detective Aaron Falk.

The Dry was a deeply personal and emotional story for Falk, who returns to his hometown in country Victoria for a funeral, but ends up investigating what appears to be a murder-suicide as well as confronting his own past.

It wasn’t the most original concept that Australian cinema has to offer, but a strong cast, an intriguing mystery and the threatening Aussie climate proved to be a winning recipe for a successful film.

We should also acknowledge Bana’s star power, the success of the novel and the fact that there weren’t many films to watch in the cinemas at the start of 2021.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 adapts the sequel novel, simply called Force of Nature.

It is structurally similar to its predecessor in that it’s a crime/mystery drama set in the unforgiving Australian land. Whether the popularity of the first film translates to even more bums on seats for the second, we’ll have to wait and see, but the producers surely think so by adding The Dry 2 subtitle for marketing purposes.

The Dry 2 is a funny name because the rainy mountain ranges is the polar opposite of the hot Australian outback in the first movie. I’m not the first and won’t be the last to call it “The Wet”.

The group of five women on this camping retreat, including the missing Alice Russell, all have skeletons in their closet and different personalities. Russell doesn’t have the best interpersonal skills and creates conflict wherever she goes, so it leaves you guessing over who was responsible for her disappearance, or was it all her own doing?

I’m trying to be vague, because the mystery is arguably just as gripping as the last movie. While a subplot with a murderer who operated in the area decades ago was left largely unresolved, the question mark surrounding Alice’s disappearance wraps up nicely – I certainly didn’t see it coming.

I do question however why these five women were left to their own devices without a guide and sufficient resources in such a dangerous area with almost no phone reception.

Like the first film, director Robert Connolly makes terrific use of the great Australian landscape.

There are some incredible shots here, and with so many local films set in the outback, it’s great to see lush scenery for a change.

It reminded me of last year’s The Clearing, an Australian thriller series on Disney Plus which was also filmed in Victoria and visually took advantage of its forestry.

Eric Bana (above) is Aaron Falk in the sequel to smash hit, The Dry. Images: Roadshow Films.

The biggest issue with Force of Nature compared to the first one is Falk’s connection to the mystery, or the lack thereof.

There’s a series of flashbacks about Falk’s own experience with his parents camping in these exact mountain ranges when he was a child. I could see the eventual conclusion of these flashbacks a mile away, so it was frustrating to go back to them constantly. The flashbacks are seemingly thrown in so we see why Falk cares about this case and why he’s the right detective to find Alice, but on the whole, they don’t add much to either the plot or Falk’s character.

This lack of a personal touch extends to the characters.

Falk isn’t close friends with the others; he has a working relationship with fellow detective Carmen Cooper and his missing informant, Alice (Anna Torv). The flashbacks in the first movie by contrast were not only an important part of the narrative, but revealed Falk’s relationships with others in his home town.

If you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to follow this film if you haven’t seen the first The Dry, there’s no need for that – although the original is on Netflix right now. None of the events of the first movie are referenced and the only returning element is Falk as the main character.

There’s a third and final novel in the Aaron Falk series, so if this film does well, I’m sure The Dry 3 will be greenlit.

The concern is Falk himself, as everything interesting about him was in the first movie. He’s not like Indiana Jones who is afraid of snakes, great with a whip and has an iconic hat, and can bring those attributes to each film. What would Aaron Falk bring to a third outing?

In conclusion, while the first movie is clearly superior, Force of Nature is still a good time at the movies for both fans and newcomers.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is coming to Sale Cinemas this week.