Film: HOLD THE DARK, An Original @Netflix #Movie
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Riley Keough, Alexander Skarsgard
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Screenplay by: Macon Blair
Based on the Novel By: William Giraldi

This is a captivating and moody film holding layer upon layer of meaning that will keep viewers guessing until the end. It’s compelling and engaging, thanks to strong acting and beautiful cinematography, and it reminded me of WIND RIVER crossed with THE REVENANT. It’s a mystery, a crime thriller, and a brutal examination of the thin line that divides human from animal. Answers are not stated outright, but the clues are all there … so watch closely.

The Story

Jeffrey Wright portrays Russel Core, the writer of a book on wolves — an examination of their society, habits, routines — suffering from family guilt involving his daughter and his lack of presence in her life. Riley Keough plays Medora Sloan, a mother living in a remote Alaskan village whose son was taken by wolves. She’s seeking Core’s help to locate the body. Core travels to the remote wilderness to track the wolves, and unknowingly begins a journey into the depths of human savagery and horror. There is more going on than what Mrs. Sloan is telling him, and as Core slowly uncovers the mystery, her husband Vernon arrives from the Iraq war seeking revenge for what’s happened to his son.

Or has he?

His motives aren’t fully revealed until the film’s conclusion, but his character is cold, heartless, callous, and war-hardened. The scenes in Iraq are counterpoint to the Alaskan wilderness — he couldn’t be farther from home — but his journey to escape his past has only brought his own demons to a place just as dark.

When he returns to Alaska, there’s no room for mercy, and wolves are the last thing on his mind.

At times the film’s purpose wavers, but the study of the veneer of civilization hiding our brutal nature remains at the forefront. The separation is even thinner in the Alaskan wilderness, where the law can only stretch so far.

Riley Keough

Many viewers have a hard time understanding the plot — as evidenced by reviews on IMDB — but the answers are all there for us to see. The film’s meandering through the middle muddles the story somewhat, as Vernon’s friend Cheeon unleashes his anger at police in an extended ultra-violent and intense sequence, but the similarity between human and animal is all too clear by the conclusion. It’s a brutal story, emotionally and physically, and Wright continues to impress with his understated acting and his undeniable screen presence. This film is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for someone looking for a fun evening and a popcorn movie. But it’s damn good. Seems that humans and wolves are more similar than even Core has calculated, despite being an expert on the creatures, and HOLD THE DARK is a heart-pounding journey into the savage wilderness as Core mirrors the viewers’ horror and we experience the awful nature of humanity together.

TSJ’s Review: 8/10

Purchase links for THE WAR BENEATH are here.

“This is a tense, gripping science fiction/thriller of which
Tom Clancy might well be proud.” — Ardath Mayhar

“One very riveting, intelligent read!” — Readers’ Favorite

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