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film review

Riley Keough and Jeffrey Wright in Hold the Dark, streaming on Netflix starting Sept. 28.Netflix David Bukach/Courtesy of Netflix

  • Hold the Dark
  • Written by Macon Blair
  • Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
  • Classification: N/A; 125 minutes

Rating:

2.5 out of 4 stars

As anyone who has witnessed Blue Ruin, Murder Party or Green Room can attest, director Jeremy Saulnier excels at pitting broken souls against broken bones.

His latest film, Hold the Dark, is no different in that respect – its split narrative follows a wolf-expert (Jeffrey Wright) tasked with finding a wild pack in Alaska that have been savaging local children, and an ex-soldier (Alexander Skarsgard) who might be a worse predator than the animals. It’s bloody, brutal stuff that’s Saulnier’s burnt bread and mouldy butter.

But the thriller also represents a leap of firsts for the director, whose previous films have been mostly confined to isolated locales with obvious budgetary restraints, as opposed to the expansive and expensive wilderness here.

And Hold the Dark also affords the filmmaker his first genuine bananas set-piece, a fierce gun battle that is as impressive in its brutality as it is unbearable to witness.

Yet there is an overwhelming, eventually stupefying strangeness – a bend to the supernatural, really – to Hold the Dark’s narrative that Saulnier seems uncomfortable reconciling. It makes for intriguing and often gripping viewing, but delivers a more confounding experience than is necessary. Still, the director knows how to break those bones real good.

Hold the Dark starts streaming on Netflix Sept. 28