August 10, 2020 The Silencing (Movie Review)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau helms a talented cast that features Annabelle Wallis and Hero Fiennes Tiffin in The Silencing, which was initially released exclusively to DirecTV on July 16, 2020. For the rest of us, Saban Films is offering up the film in select theaters, as well as on VOD and Digital, beginning Friday, August 14th.
Directed by Robin Pront (Injury Time short 2010, The Ardennes 2015) and written by Micah Ranum (Harvest Moon short 2008, First Kill short 2008), the film centers around a series of disappearances that lead to a pile of bodies. With the small enclave of Echo Falls, Minnesota having fallen under the purview of a serial killer, local sheriff, Alice Gustafson (Wallis: Annabelle 2014, The Mummy 2017), is suddenly struggling with much more than her popularity in an election year and her younger brother Brooks’ (Tiffin: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2009, After 2019) anti-social behavior. As the troubling case crosses into Sawbill Nation territory, she will be forced to learn to play nice with Sheriff Carl Blackhawk (Zahn McClarnon: Into the West mini-series, Doctor Sleep 2019).
Living on the outskirts of town, on Buck Lake, Rayburn Swanson (Coster-Waldau: Game of Thrones series, Exit Plan 2019) is still on an emotional search for answers in the disappearance of his daughter, even after five years. A reformed hunter who now owns a massive tract of forest that he has deemed a wildlife sanctuary in honor of his beloved Gwen, Ray is struggling with alcoholism and emotional trauma when the trouble quite literally lands on his doorstep. Before long finds himself enmeshed in Sheriff Gustafson’s case and it becomes very, very personal.
With a runtime of 94 minutes, The Silencing also features the acting talents of Melanie Scrofano (Saw VI 2009, Ready or Not 2019), Shaun Smyth (The Killing series, Fringe series), Charlotte Lindsay Marron (Between series, What Keeps You Alive 2018), and many more.
A Mystery-Thriller that will find appreciation with fans of 1997’s Kiss The Girls, The Silencing also has elements of 2020’s The Hunt, and feels that lend it to comparisons with the stellar series The Killing as well as 2002’s Murder by Numbers. The lovely cinematography of Manuel Dacosse (Évolution 2015, Adoration 2019) highlights a rugged landscape, while the cast partake in enough action to keep you engrossed throughout. And while there are also minor elements of the Survivalist Thriller embedded within, this is truly a battle of man versus man, not man versus nature.
If you’ve come for that action, much of the focus is pointed toward a weapon known as an Atlatl, a spear-thrower that allows its user to gain greater velocity when launching a projectile. For much of the on-screen sparring in The Silencing, it’s atlatls and rifles, hunter and hunted. A game of cat and mouse that constantly shifts, the use of the atlatl certainly gives the film an up on other Thrillers that stick to the commonplace weaponry of guns, archery, and knives. Although, truth be told, this is a detail that is likely to have little to no effect on the majority of viewers.
However, if you’re thinking that The Silencing is a hunter’s paradise, well, it is and it isn’t. A tale of morality and fatherhood that is set amidst the plentiful woods, the film has a greater message and it’s one that, at times, questions the morality of sport trapping and hunting. But the bulk of the moral debate is offered to us in the form of Wallis’ Sheriff Gustafson, a woman who is often torn between her responsibility to her badge and her love for her younger brother, who has been a victim of heinous abuse. Though not a three-dimensional character, Wallis’ Alice is human enough to be guided by her emotions, creating a semi-intriguing spin on the small town sheriff trope, one with an obvious Achilles heel.
As this tortured sibling, Tiffin gives an impressive performance with the little screen time he is given. Able to convey the complicated dynamics of his character, Tiffin is a stand-out in an excellent cast. Similarly, McClarnon is convincing as Sheriff Blackhawk of the Sawbill Nation. Proud of his territory and well-spoken, a man who refuses to be cowed by the intimidation tactics of the county sheriff, McClarnon’s Blackhawk is the kind but stern foil to Gustafson’s emotional and somewhat erratic behavior.
Seasoned veteran Coster-Waldau is given an overabundance of material for his role, though Ray still never manages to be a three-dimensional character. A man stuck in the mistakes of his past, bitter over the loss of his daughter and the breakup with his ex-wife (Scrofano), he has turned to alcohol and his dog, Thor, for comfort. An expert at conveying a depth of emotions with his facial expressions, Coster-Waldau delivers a performance that is at all times a mixture of pain, exhaustion, and fierce determination. A crusader for justice in the case of his daughter, Coster-Waldau’s Ray is a sympathetic antihero—flawed but relatable.
Though, despite its roster of wonderful talent, lush scenery, and lovely cinematography, The Silencing still feels like a typical Thriller and is, admittedly, somewhat predictable. For fans of Mystery-Thrillers, it’s a well-done and enjoyable ride, one with all the bells and whistles necessary to engage your ears and eyes, but definitely not the most original film you will see in 2020. If for some reason you’re not a fan of this subgenre, however, The Silencing is not likely to change your mind. Therefore, Cryptic Rock gives The Silencing 4 of 5 stars.