Hold The Dark - Review
Hold The Dark is Netflix's newest movie, and I had high hopes for it. It is very ambitious, not at all what the trailer sells it to be, and doesn't quite stick the landing. But Jeffrey Wright's performance is worth a view alone. There will be a few spoilers throughout this review.
When I saw the preview, I thought this would a quieter and more subtle version of The Grey. But only the introduction is straightforward. After that film spins off into many different directions - and while absolutely coherent, it is not at all the adventure you expect to go on when you press play.
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) and Alexander Skarsgård elevate the material. They keep audiences on this ride. The rest of the cast does quite nicely too.
The film establishes itself to be set in Alaska, where Wright's Russell Core is hired to find the wolf that took the Slone boy. So when we are introduced to Skarsgård's character, Vernon Slone, as a soldier in the middle east, the contrast is a bit jarring. But director Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room) wastes no time in showing us exactly who he wants to think Slone is. We see him light up a pick up truck they were chasing with no hesitation. Then he prevents one of his fellow soldiers from raping a local woman - by stabbing him, and giving the knife to the woman to finish the job. Killing is no different to Vernon Slone than brushing his teeth. The brilliance is, to show him kill in those instances, it makes us on his side, because he is preventing bad things. Then he gets wounded - enough to go home - and the audience is sympathetic. It is an extremely clever sequence set up to trick the audience.
When Vernon hears of his sons death, and returns to Alaska, the film shifts into this dark thriller. There are twists that lead to one of the bloodiest shoot outs put on film this year. Saulnier doesn't hold back on the violence and the gore. It goes on so long, that it makes you feel tense.
The biggest twist of the entire movie is not explicitly stated. In fact, you might not even get it unless you Google (or ask me) afterward. There are clues to it peppered throughout the movie though, so listen to every word. I'm not sure I would have made the same choice as Saulnier. I would have put it on front street at least a little bit more than he did. Once you know this piece of information, other things make more sense than they do without it.
As far as the acting goes though, it was about as good as it gets. Wright is masterful in everything he does. He is great as Felix in the James Bond series. He is incredible as Bernard in Westworld and his performance in Hold The Dark is no different. Skarsgård might get accused of "wooden" acting. That is unfair. The character he plays is very non-emotional. Even after going through what destroy someone else, Vernon Slone is a dark person, things don't phase him. He played it perfectly. Riley Keough as Medora Slone worked too. She was the right amount of "down and out" yet could still portray the darkness inside of her.
I'd be remiss not to mention James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3) as Donald Marium. He does very well as the police officer that gets involved with everyone else. He has a quiet sadness to him that comes across on screen without saying a word. His tragic end was unfair. But there isn't much happiness in this story at all.
The theme of children is quite prevalent. Not just the tragic case of the Slones' son, but through the other characters too. Donald is going to be a father - he's in his 40s and nervous about it. Russell Core has an adult daughter that he estranged from, and is in the process of trying to make amends. Then, maybe the most telling part of the theme are the wolves. Core comes up on them eating one of their young. For the pack to survive, the wolves have to kill one of the pack and eat them to survive. They don't spend a ton of time on that, but it is very important.
I like ambitious art. The take off was normal, the flight was fun, but the landing was a tad bumpy. Overall though, Hold The Dark is worth the watch if you are up for a weird ride.
Hold The Dark is now streaming, exclusively on Netflix.