Film Review: Fortress

Fortress (Nicholson, 1985)

Not to be mixed up with 1992’s Fortress (Gordon) starring Christopher Lambert, this little known Australian movie is about the kidnapping of a teacher and her students in the rural Outback. Sally Jones (Rachel Ward) teaches a one room schoolhouse whose students range from kindergartener to preteen. She boards at the house of two of her students Sid (Sean Garlick) and Tommy (Marc Gray) who are both tired of being treated like children. It isn’t soon that they, as well as Sally are tested. The creepy kidnapers, wearing playful masks, take Sally and the students to a cave in the middle of nowhere, trapping them until a ransom is paid. Following the more adventurous Sid and Tommy’s lead, Sally attempts to escape while keeping seven other, younger kids from panicking. That’s where the cat and mouse adventure begins, but at what point does the predator become the prey?

The action is nicely paced and the characters, even the minor characters, are well rounded and adequately fleshed out. It helps that these very young actors and actresses do a pretty good job conveying their emotions. They look scared and you can’t help but be frightened for them.

This is a fun and scary ride that never loses sight of what is pushing the story along: the hunter stalks the hunted. This thriller forces the hunted past their limit, past their boundaries where children are forced to tap into their primal instincts and the lone adult must decide whether to run, hide or fight.

Fun Facts

  • This movie was loosely based off of the 1972 Faraday School kidnapping by Edwin John Eastwood and Robert Clyde Boland. In 1977, Eastwood escaped from prison and tried to replicate the kidnapping again. Not being an original criminal, Eastwood actually based his kidnappings on the Dirty Harry (Siegel, 1971) scene where the Scorpio Killer holds a bus filled with schoolchildren hostage.
  • Rachel Ward also stared in Against All Odds (Hackford, 1984), playing the emotionally conflicted Jessie.
  • The movie did pretty well in the cinema in its native Australia, but was only released on cable TV in the US.
  • They filmed the movie in Bairnsdale and Victoria, Australia.
  • Rebecca Rigg (Norelle) is married to Simon Baker (The Mentalist) and two of her three children have very famous godmother’s: Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts.
  • Vernon Wells (Dabby Duck) has made a career of playing a bad guy in such films as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Miller, 1981) and Commando (Lester, 1985).

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6 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

Thanks for the review. Someone told me this was a good movie.


vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA Author

They didn't lie, this movie is a fun ride. In fact, a little tid bit I just found today says that Quentin Tarantino posted this movie as one of his inspirations in creating film. I'm not sure which movie he puts this in the liner, but I can't wait to find out.


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 5 years ago from Australia

I remember having to read the novel that this was based on for high school english down here. It was pretty good, too - I remember enjoying it... or, at least, enjoying it as much as I was capable of enjoying anything I had to study in high school.

I was only ever vaguely aware that there was a movie, as well, though. I might have to get hold of a copy sometime.


vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA Author

I didn't know this movie was based on a novel. Do you recall the name? From the research I've done, this movie was based on a man who really kidnapped a classroom of students, who based his kidnappings on the movie Dirty Harry.

If you recall the name, do tell. I'd be interested in reading it!

Thanks for the feedback!


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 5 years ago from Australia

'Fortress', by Gabrielle Lord... first published in 1980. It's quite possible that it was the book that was based on the kidnapping.


vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA Author

I'll definitely have to read the book. Apparently she based it on the kidnapping and the movie was based on her book. Phew, glad to know! Thanks so much and now I have something to order.

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