Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark


A retired naturalist and wolf expert (Jeffrey Wright, TV's Westworld) is hired to track down the pack of wolves that killed a woman's (Riley Keough) son in this Alaskan wilderness-set thriller. When her husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård) returns from the Iraq War, the news of his son's death ignites a violent chain of events. From the director of Green Room and Blue Ruin, based on the novel of the same name.

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Flicks Review

Director Jeremy Saulnier made a name for himself with taut small-town thrillers Blue Ruin and Green Room. Both showcased a knack for building tension, claustrophobically in the case of Green Room (Flicks' 4th best film of 2016, incidentally), and then exploding into frequently shocking depictions of violence. His latest, Hold the Dark, unsurprisingly shares some of these characteristics, while also embracing the scale and remoteness of the Alaskan wilderness (and throwing off any thoughts he was now stuck in a pattern of including a colour in his movie titles).... More

Based on the novel of the same name, with a screenplay by Macon Blair (a familiar face in Saulnier’s films, this one included), Hold the Dark builds from a familiar foundation. Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright, TV’s Westworld), an expert in wolves, is summoned to a small town by a mother whose child has been taken by the four-legged predators. Playing the mum, Riley Keogh exhibits no hope for her son’s survival. Instead she wants resolution, a return of his body, before her husband Alexander Skarsgård returns from Iraq. Straight-forward stuff until, like other Saulnier pics, it swerves to take the narrative in unexpected directions and drag the viewer along with the film’s protagonist in trying to make sense of events.

Violence rears its head too, with the director once again unflinchingly depicting the chaos and gruesome consequences of firearms. In one riveting set piece, Core finds himself amongst an utterly ineffective small town police force, ill-equipped in either tactics or arsenal to take out their quarry. For once in a Saulnier film, the cops have actually shown up—but they’re fucking useless. Once again, his characters must fend for themselves absent any justice other than what they can achieve for themselves.

The tidy, if blood-soaked, resolution of past efforts isn’t present here though, largely thanks to questions that linger after the credits roll. Of course, this is seldom a bad thing, but rather than simply being unstated, some character motivations remain frustratingly unclear, and the film denies some of the satisfaction you’d expect from the thriller genre.

Thrills, though, it has in spades, especially once the film careens over the crest where you’re thinking “anything could happen”. That is, anything grounded in a bleak, snowy, landscape that feels lived-in thanks in part to casting the likes of James Badge Dale in supporting roles. Even if Hold the Dark doesn’t quite meet expectations, it’s still much more than we’ve got any right to want from a direct-to-Netflix title at this stage of the streaming game. Both bloody and good, I'll settle for bloody good in the absence of great.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

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Just when I was starting to think Netflix was becoming this millennium's answer to “straight to video” release, along comes Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to the excellent ‘Blue Ruin’ and ‘Green Room’ – and it’s darn good.

For those who loved the metaphorical allusions of Joe Carnahan’s ‘The Grey’ (and weren’t let down by a movie that was pretty far from an action revenge thriller in which Liam Neeson punches out wolves!), then ‘Hold The Dark’ is a slow-burn... More delight.

Best I don’t give too much away, as the plot twists and turns are part of the delight, in this beautifully lensed thriller set in the barren cold of the Alaskan wilderness.

Not to mention the most jaw-dropping machine-gunning from a high vantage point since Arnie shot at the cops in T2.

As the world-weary wolf-hunter, Jeffrey Wright is his usual understated best, and as the parents of a vanished child, Riley Keogh and Alexander Skarsgård are superb.

With a great, taut script, assured direction and a fabulous supporting cast, Saulnier’s latest thriller is all kinds of good and as strong an indication as there ever was that Netflix is far from a dumping ground for dire movies.Hide

BY fairbrother superstar

It's atmospheric. It's well-acted. It invests as much in building tension as it does paying out visceral set-pieces - there's a shoot-out here that really puts us through the wringer. Director Jeremy Saulnier's craft is impeccable but his driving purpose is less clear here than in his previous gems Blue Ruin and Green Room. Stranded between its desire to deliver as a gritty thriller and its aspirations toward something loftier, Hold the Dark feels half-mixed and over-baked: compelling most of... More the way but, finally, never truly convincing.Hide

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