The discovery of the body of a murdered teenage girl close to a highway sets this slow-burn thriller in motion. But writer-director Ivan Sen, who also shot and edited the film and wrote the score, is less interested in sorting out whodunit than in examining the prevailing mores of the remote Queensland region in which the crime occurred. Like his previous film, Toomelah, Mystery Road paints a searing portrait of a place shaped by disappointment, despair, frustration and anger. Amid a wide brown land and under a vast sky, there’s also a town whose many roads seem to lead nowhere. Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), returned home from training in the city, is assigned to his first major case and, almost everywhere he looks, he finds resignation, corruption or seething hostility. Heading a standout cast, Pederson delivers a disciplined performance and Tasma Walton is superb as his damaged and resentful ex-wife. The potent supporting cast features actors of the calibre of Tony Barry, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Robert Mammone, David Field, Roy Billing, Zoe Carides and Ryan Kwanten. A gripping ride, all the way to the stunning final scene.