After wolves take three children from an isolated village, writer Russell Core is recruited by one of the parents to track down a boy in the Alaskan wilderness.
I was a huge fan of Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film, Green Room, and also a fan of his debut film, “Blue Ruin”, so I knew it would only be a matter of time before I got around to this film. While I wouldn’t say this film holds a candle to the brilliance of Green Room, it is a decent film (not great). While Saulnier’s trademark (visceral scenes of graphic violence) is still there, the story for this film is a bit meandering, and the overall meaning and message are a touch hazy. The story might not have been there completely, but I found myself fully enamored by the cinematography and some of the action scenes within this film; while this isn’t a perfect film, it’s worth watching- particularly for those that like slow burn thrillers with intense bouts of violence, absolutely gorgeous cinematography and compelling characters.
“I’ll always be with you.” “Don’t lie.”
Set in the Alaskan wilderness. After her son is taken by wolves, Medora Slone (Riley Keough, “House that Jack Built”) writes Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright, “Lady in the Water”), a famous author and naturalist, to try to convince him to track down her son’s body so that’s she’ll have something to show her husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard, “Melancholia”) when he returns from the war. After an unexpected twist, the small Alaskan town is thrust into violence, and the local Sherriff, Donald Marium (James Badge Dale, “The Departed”) must step in to help intervene.
It’s hard to talk too much about the plot of the film without giving a ton away, because within the first thirty minutes of this movie there is a huge tonal shift. I will say that this film moves at a very slow, deliberate pace, and for me, that pacing worked really well. Atmosphere is something this film has plenty of, and it takes its time in delicately crafting a feeling of dread before thrusting you into the violence. The problem this film faces is that the most exciting stuff happens earlier on in the story, so after about the middle mark, the movie really slows down. Another issue I had is that the ending is somewhat ambiguous. Usually, I really like ambiguous endings, but in this film it felt as if they had hinted at something much darker happening near the resolution, and in the end we were rewarded with nothing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I felt cheated by the ending, but I certainly was expecting a little more. I think my biggest issue with the film’s ambiguity is the fact that it made the meaning of the film a little hazy. I wasn’t really quite sure what Saulnier was trying to say with this movie, and for his other entries, finding meaning in them was never a problem. Other than the final scenes of this film however, I really found the writing to be pretty compelling. This film is very minimalist as far as dialogue goes- it spends a lot of time just showing characters traveling through the expanse of the wilderness or contemplating what they are about to do. I honestly think the directing that Saulnier brought to this film was on par with some of the other films he’s done, it’s just the writing wasn’t quite up to snuff here.
Overall this is a flawed but taught thriller that doesn’t quite deliver at the end. While I was watching the film I was fully engaged and interested. The film looks absolutely gorgeous, it’s well acted, and there are some incredibly visceral and intense scenes. It wasn’t until the final scenes that I realized I wasn’t fully satisfied with how the story was told. Overall this is a little bit better than an average film, but it’s not so remarkable that I’d run out and tell everyone about this movie.
Review Written By: