From the very outset of [The Last Wave, an] intelligently imaginative film, Peter Weir creates an eerie sense of nature gone awry….
Supernatural forces are evidently at work. But their ways are subtle, for Weir is broaching again the gossamer mysticism he explored so superbly in his film of the Joan Lindsay novel Picnic at Hanging Rock. Neither an incomplete fragment of history nor a period atmosphere are to be conjured up this time, and the current film, while hardly reaching the quality of that last one, is probably the more arduous feat: an essay on atavism set in a wholly naturalistic present, against which the strong impressions of unknown influences are thrown into startling relief. (p. 34)
[The] supernatural hints are very suavely integrated. There is, for example, a clever little scene in a pub where naturalism extends to an overlay of dialogue and the chatter of a radio commentary, an everyday feeling upon which a frisson of something 'other' impinges when into the bar-room walks the aboriginal David [who] has hitherto [been] seen only as a dream figure. From such gentle fusions of the tangible and the uncertain, Weir expands occasionally into elaborate effects which (until the very last touch) are beautifully judged: the realism of croaking frogs on a rainy night, gathering a certain menace in close shots, blends moodily into another of the visions that might or might not be in David's dreams—Weir's special accomplishment here is to have us doubt whether what we see is dream or not, until the moment he is ready to enlighten us….
Weir, putting another essay in eeriness on top of The Cars That Ate Paris and Picnic at Hanging Rock, sets himself a difficult course, and pursues it with admirable assurance. (p. 35)
Gordon Gow, "'The Last Wave'" (© copyright Gordon Gow 1978; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 24, No. 7, April, 1978, pp. 34-5.