(US/Switzerland - 2018)
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Written by Macon Blair. Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgard, James Badge Dale, Riley Keough, Julian Black Antelope, Peter McRobbie, Tantoo Cardinal, Macon Blair, Jonathan Whitesell, Savonna Spracklin, Maureen Thomas, Sean Hoy, Brian Martell, Beckam Crawford. (Unrated, 125 mins)
Adapted from William Giraldi's 2015 novel, the bitterly cold and endlessly snowy Netflix Original HOLD THE DARK is the latest bleak, grim thriller from BLUE RUIN and GREEN ROOM director Jeremy Saulnier. It's the filmmaker's most ambitious work yet, with some stunning cinematography by Magnus Nordenhof Jonck, jaw-dropping aerial shots that would look incredible on a big screen, and one of the most masterfully-staged and brilliantly-executed shootouts to come down the pike in quite some time. This long sequence, with its tension escalating to unrelenting terror and punctuated by bursts of shocking and extremely graphic violence, is the centerpiece of HOLD THE DARK and as a result, what follows can't help but pale in comparison, especially since Saulnier and screenwriter Macon Blair (the star of BLUE RUIN and the writer/director of I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE) jettison the more procedural, straightforward plotting of Giraldi's novel to go for something more allegorical and ambiguous. In a way, it's gussying up what could be a 90-minute commercial thriller and turning it into a somber slow-burner that runs just over two hours and veers toward the arthouse, giving it the distinct feel of something A24 would pick and open nationwide just to piss people off. It often doesn't feel too far removed from last year's sleeper hit WIND RIVER, and though it has that distinct sense of Saulnier dread and despair, it could also be seen as what might happen if Taylor Sheridan remade WOLFEN.