Film Review – Hold the Dark (2018)

Title – Hold the Dark (2018)

Director – Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin)

Cast – Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, James Badge Dale, Riley Keough, Julian Black Antelope

Plot – In the harsh surrounds of the Alaskan wilderness, writer and wolf expert Russell Core (Wright) gets drawn into an increasingly dangerous missing child case when the child’s mother Medora Slone (Keough) requests his help to find her missing boy.

“What’s outside those windows, it gets in you”

Review by Eddie on 03/10/2018

After two solid thriller’s in the last few years, that included the critically lauded and audience favourite Green Room, hype has been growing around upcoming director Jeremy Saulnier and his unique sensibilities in crafting mood, tension and outbursts of sensory assaulting violence.

In light of this, there was growing interest in the filmmaker’s adaptation of William Giraldi novel Hold the Dark, the directors highest profile and biggest budget release yet that has been championed by its distributer Netflix as one of the streaming giants premiere releases of the year.

Unfortunately for Netflix and its director, Hold the Dark becomes a rather frustrating experience, made worse by the fact there is so much to like here and in many ways the film is close to being quite good, failing however to take the steps needed to make this become a reality, not just an unachieved possibility.

Fans of Saulnier’s previous works will instantly feel at home with Dark’s slowly paced and well-filmed batch of thrills that takes its time in telling the story of Jeffrey Wright’s wolf expert and writer Russell Core getting drawn into an increasingly ominous child disappearance case, that includes Riley Keough’s depressed mother Medora Slone, Alexander Skarsgard as Medora’s husband and war veteran Vernon and James Badge Dale’s kindly local policeman Donald Marium, who all operate and live in the harsh surrounds of an icy Alaskan small town.

It’s an intriguing set-up and a great location for such a mystery to take place in, one that allows Saulnier and his DOP Magnus Nordenhof Jonck to capture some stunning and memorable imagery, yet the methodically snail-paced approach, the often quiet whisperings of the cast and the at times frustrating blurry motivations and insights of its narrative hold Dark back from becoming the film it could’ve been.

Dark is a film with some great individual sequences, that includes a sojourn to the Middle East and a classily staged shoot out, that while completely over the top and unbelievable is a great showcase for Saulnier’s growing talents behind the camera and this is a film that features some solid turns from its cast, that’s anchored by Wright who always excels when given the chance to take a lead role but it’s still not enough to fully immerse us in this world that seems so open to being explored further.

From Core’s dealings and experiences with studying wolves and searching for the Slone’s boy, themes of racism and social injustices around the natives that live in the small community and the relationship between Medora and Vernon, Dark fails in giving these the airtime they deserve (which from my understanding is similar to the book on which it is based) but it’s still a shame that Saulnier and his long time screenwriting collaborator Macon Blair failed to maximise these facets of the narrative.

Final Say –

Solid and memorable moments are to be found within Hold the Dark, including its stunning location and surrounds but this is a rather icy affair that fails to invest us into its story that unfortunately keeps us at an arm’s length distance throughout, making Saulnier’s film another disappointing Netflix outing.

2 ½ incompetent shooters out of 5

4 responses to “Film Review – Hold the Dark (2018)

  1. I was very much looking forward to this film, I love Saulnier’s films, but this just confused the hell out of me. Some great parts and your review summed it up quite correctly and your 3rd paragraph I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Far out, I am a bit upset about it really.

    • Yeh me to mate, it should’ve and could’ve been a really strong film! I hate it when film’s such as this feel like they easily could’ve been something more.

    • Yeh mate there was a lot of pretentious stuff going on here haha. Like a good metaphor here or there is fine but this laid it on pretty thick!

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