Quick Hit: Bleak and powerful, but lacking in execution of overall story despite strong individual moments and performances.
Hello everyone! This is my first post in a while – I’ve had to focus on some things like the upcoming play and everything else, but it’s good to be back. Hopefully you checked out some of the extensive SLIFF coverage that quite possibly drained us leading up to this Thanksgiving week. That being said, I’m going to do some catch-up posts – movies I watched intending to review that never got around to being typed.
One of those was the Netflix thriller/horror Hold the Dark starring Jeffrey Wright (of Westworld and Catching Fire). This is a movie that you probably shouldn’t go into if you want cheery. From the opening moments of the film, it’s a bleak exploration into family and the role it plays in our lives. It’s also a step down from the last Jeremy Saulnier film I reviewed – the terrific Neo-Nazi filled Green Room.
Hold the Dark follows Russell Core (Wright) into the Alaskan town of Keelkut, in order to help Medora Sloan (Riley Keough), the young mother of a boy that was killed by wolves. Her husband, Vernon, is off fighting in Iraq – something we flash to in a harrowing experience that shows the true nature of war in an extremely Platoon like moment. And just like that – the plot shifts immensely, and what was turning out to be a fairly by the numbers wilderness story shifts into a plot procedural.
I think that is probably the biggest issue that I had with Hold the Dark – its inability to maintain any momentum in what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a vengeful revenge thriller? Is it a man against the wilderness fight? Or is it a drama filled with the effects isolation and race have on a small community? In the end, the film feels like an amalgam of all these genres, but never fully meshes them together. While the characters feel extremely real and developed, nothing seems to relate fully to each other – almost as if this is a small slice of a larger television show that has so much more to tell. I think Core, Wright’s character, has the biggest room for growth. Wright plays his typical quiet intelligent type, and while it is as wonderful as always, you can’t help but want more for him than he receives.
Saulnier’s normal violence is on full display here though, and at times it is once again mixed masterfully with quiet dialogue. This is perfectly exhibited in what could probably be described as the climatic scene of the film(definitely the most action filled), which involves a young lawman attempting to talk down a man on the edge. The result is a bloody massacre that shows us just how isolated you can feel in a crowd.
The ending is a bit of a mess, because it’s unafraid to leave us without answers. Some quick research tells you that the book this is based on gives you some more icky answers if you care to search for them.
I left Hold the Dark disappointed, if only because I felt the film had the ability to become more than it was. I’m going to give the film a “C+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"