Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis, Zahn McClarnon, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Melanie Scrofano, Shaun Smyth
Written by: Micah Ranum
Directed by: Robin Pront
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 97
Date: 08/14/2020

The Silencing (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Woodsy Howl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Wintry and woodsy, this small-scale thriller is closer to a decent episode of The Killing than The Silence of the Lambs, but it works due to the interestingly flawed characters and fine performances.

In The Silencing, divorced Rayburn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) runs a wildlife sanctuary deep in the Minnesota woods. He drinks too much, while still obsessed with finding his missing daughter, who has been gone for five years. Meanwhile, a woman's corpse washes up from the river and new sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis) investigates, discovering that she was hunted with a Native American spearhead.

She also has her hands full with her troublemaking brother, Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). Meanwhile, Rayburn is attacked in the woods by a mysterious thing covered in black fur, which is easily able to hide among the underbrush. Alice and Rayburn find themselves simultaneously following the same trail to the actual kidnapper/killer.

Written by Micah Ranum and directed by Robin Pront, The Silencing establishes a clear sense of place, a small town on the edge of a vast woods; the sense of cold comes through bitingly, and things feel ragged and lived-in. It's too bad Pront couldn't have been a little more creative with the various treks/chases through the woods; many of the shots are too shaky and/or too dark. But Coster-Waldau (from Game of Thrones) plays Rayburn with an appealing mix of intrepid goodness and rage/self-loathing.

Meanwhile Wallis's Alice must deal with a general mistrust of her among her community — she stops to remove a defaced election sign — as well as her connection (and protection) of her troublesome brother; she makes bad choices, but remains captivating. Other characters similarly spring to life, and an underlying tension between whites and Native Americans living in the same community deepens the mood.

The mystery story in The Silencing doesn't quite click together as neatly as we'd hope; it relies on red herrings and marginal characters, but the writing is still fairly strong, with some smart twists and dialogue. All in all, it's not a mind-blowing movie, but it's sufficiently entertaining.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release comes with a digital copy, optional subtitles for the feature, and two short featurettes, a "making of" and "Creating a Weapon: The Silencing Spear."

Movies Unlimtied