Ogilvie has used Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent as a touchstone for his reimagining of this classic tale of anarchism, espionage and terrorism set in contemporary Melbourne.

The film opens with ex-Special Crimes agent Kylie Heat (Diana Glenn) bursting in on the Police Minister (Hugo Weaving) in his Melbourne office, demanding he view a compilation of surveillance footage she has assembled. With a nervous Assistant Police Commissioner (Steven Curry) leaning in to watch, she plays him the footage.

Using the clever device of presenting the story as a police dossier clipped together from surveillance footage, Lone Wolf sees the audience become a voyeur, peering into the lives of Winnie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), her beloved disabled brother Stevie (Chris Bunton) and her boyfriend Conrad (Josh McConville).

Their struggling anarchist bookshop and attached flat are being monitored by the police – both covertly and in the public realm. Exterior shots are pieced together from street CCTV, their private lives recorded by hidden cameras and footage lifted from personal mobile phones. Even Stevie’s home videos paying homage to his hero David Attenborough, complete with his delightful observations of “the human species in captivity”, make their way into the surveillance compilation. In this story, privacy is a myth.

The bookshop is a meeting hub for a loose knot of anarchists: Father Michaelis (Lawrence Mooney), Alex Ossipon (Marlon Williams) and Hippy Karl (Tyler Coppin). When Conrad is contracted by a member of a known terrorist group to organise a “victimless atrocity” in protest against the upcoming G20 Summit, he finds himself caught between financial desperation, his identity as an activist and his secret role of police informant.

Winnie does everything in her power to keep Stevie safe, yet the pair find themselves trapped in a dangerous web of bomb plots, conspiracy and political corruption.

This dark thriller is well-suited to the gritty and frankly unnerving visual aesthetic of surveillance footage as a storytelling medium. Geoffrey Simpson’s clever cinematography exploits our familiarity with the visual language of surveillance, forcing us into the roles of spy and complicit voyeur and generating a gritty, anxious atmosphere.

Keeping the audience at a distance, making us watch powerlessly as Winnie is swept towards tragedy, Ogilvie’s writing and direction do more than simply spin this film towards a devastating climax. He is saying something important about the pervasiveness of surveillance in our world, and we should listen.

Lone Wolf screened for one session only as part of the 2022 Adelaide Film Festival, which continues until October 30.

Read more Film Festival stories and reviews here.

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