A Moody, Slow-Paced Drama
Netflix Original Hold The Dark is a moody, atmospheric film, clinging to its interesting premise while revelling in its slow pace for much of the film’s 2 hour run time. Impressive performances from Jeffrey Wright and Alexander Skarsgård help the film stand out but bursts of explosive action contrast harshly with the overall pace, giving the film a somewhat uneven feel. Still, the unforgiving location and excellent acting are enough to make this a slow-paced drama worth checking out.
The story begins with a young woman, Medora Slone (Riley Keough), on the edge of civilisation in Northern Alaska. Succumb to her grief after her son is murdered by a pack of wolves, she hires retired naturalist and wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) to track down the wolves and gain vengeance. Running parallel to this story is Medora’s husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård), who returns home from the blood-soaked streets of war-torn Iraq to be told his son has died. What follows is an unpredictable, violent rampage as the police and Vernon go up against one another with Russell caught in the middle of the crossfire. The story plays out well, boasting some really beautiful shots of the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. Some of the action, including one breathless shoot-out midway through the film, is impressively shot and features some really smartly worked editing.
The real selling part here though is the way the film fleshes out its two central characters. Seeing the natural progression of both Vernon and Russell with their wildly different personas is part of the allure with Hold The Dark. Alexander Skarsgård in particular is sublime in his role and you really get a feel of uneasy tension driven through his unpredictability that heightens every scene he plays. From the opening shots in Iraq (and one particularly brutal scene) to the final shocking conclusion, his character is a mesmerising and oftentimes menacing figure, helped by Russell’s soft demeanour alongside him.
Hold The Dark is likely to be a film that lives or dies by its pacing. Some will almost certainly be turned off by the excruciatingly slow pace while others will revel in the atmosphere and really take to the characters. This is ultimately the selling point of the film too and combined with a well worked story, Hold The Dark is one of the better Netflix Original films to come out this year, even if it does have some issues with its pacing.