Year Released: 2018
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Riley Keough, Alexander Skarsgård
(NR 125 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
If you loved Wind River, you might like this other frigid thriller from Netflix. Or maybe not…
Different Drummer’s initial reaction was,
Don’t waste your time on this Netflix movie, an ode to dysfunctional nuance. I never thought I’d see another film about wolves as dreadful as 2012’s The Grey, which I billed back in 2012 as “existentialism for dummies,” but here it is.
Who knows, though. You might like Hold the Dark. Yes, you may be hopelessly confused and frustrated, but you won’t be bored.
Like The Grey, this one’s in Alaska, too, and also features an introspective wolf hunter. Jeffrey Wright is actually very good in his role, but he can’t save this pretentious pile of wolf dung any more than he can the pile of bodies that litter the pristine wilderness.
David Bukach of Rolling Stone, however, has a more balanced take:
Some filmmakers excel in telling stories; Jeremy Saulnier is better at setting moods. We don’t want to damn Dark with faint praise — it’s still an extraordinary high-pulp potboiler, one that mixes elements of indigenous mysticism, Greek tragedy and rural revenge flicks, along with a genuinely showstopping centerpiece . – David Bukach
And I’ll call on Buklach again for a witty summary. Hey, screenwriters aren’t the only ones who can be lazy:
And what he does here is seed the ground for a winter harvest of madness. A boy has gone missing in a small village in Alaska; there’s been an epidemic of wolves snatching local kids. His mother, Medora (Riley Keough), summons a writer and retired expert on the creatures named Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) to find the animal and kill it. He reluctantly accepts the gig, tracking the pack in the wild. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in the desert — it could be Iraq or Afghanistan; we’re purposefully never told — a solider (Alexander Skarsgard) catches a bullet in the neck from a sniper. The man, Vernon Sloane, is the child’s father. He returns home to mourn and finds out that Mom has gone missing (we suggest you take another look at the mother’s name and see if it resembles any famous theatrical heroines of the past). At which point this accomplished killer of men, his friend Cheeon (Julian Black Antelope), Core and the local sheriff (James Badge Dale) all seem to be heading toward a date with destiny. –David Bukach
Yet, some critics, of course, are again taken in completely by this balderdash, thus its 70% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes. (Viewers, however, are not such dupes, giving it a paltry 31% positive.)
Alternately gorgeous and foreboding, Saulnier deftly doles out breadcrumbs for a tense and dark mystery. – Ed Travis
A bold, mesmerizing and journey into a land of shadows and mystery that will leave a deep and unnerving impression. – Bruce DeMara
In what filmmakers too often currently do, Director Jeremy Saulnier thinks he can improve on the original material – only slyly, and I mean very slyly – hinting at the critical detail that inspires all this madness. Actually, Saulnier shot footage that explains things more fully, which the original novel did quite explicitly, but he decided “it was better off left unspoken.” (Maybe that’s why he changed the title from the novel, from Hold Back the Dark, to Hold the Dark. Saulneir embraces this dark. He does not want to hold it back.)
In this next quote you get a little insight into his view of life and its source, part rampant nihilism and part self-administered psycho therapy, a tendency all too familiar in film making today, especially with the Coen brothers:
Once I committed to the project, it was cathartic and positive for me in that it helped me deal with the frustration of trying to every day figure out what the f%#k we’re doing to each other, why humans behave the way they do, why we’re so inherently violent and tribal and sort of act counter to our best interests. – Jeremy Saulnier.
Watch it if you will. Hold the Dark is certainly not boring. But at least have something nice to snack on while you slouch through this icy sludge.
An after viewing link that may help you understand the ending.