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I wrote some thoughts on this film, a powerful exploration of pain and grief, specifically male grief:


While the film is a mish-mash of genres, and is punctuated by a couple scenes of violence including a soul-sickening rape, its heart is a tale of grief and mourning. Specifically, it is a tale of male grief. While we get to witness the pain of the women in the story—including Lambert’s estranged ex-wife (Julia Jones), the dead girl’s mother who has taken to cutting herself in her grief, and even the physical trauma inflicted upon the dead girl and Banner—it is the men dealing with their pain and grief that drives the action.

We see the weathered and worn weariness of Sheriff Ben, the anger and turn to substance abuse in response to a painful world by the dead girl’s brother, the loneliness and violence from a group of men trapped in the cold wilderness for too long, despair and heartbreak couched in sarcasm and cynicism from the girl’s father, Martin (Gil Birmingham in a scene-stealing supporting role), until he encounters Lambert and breaks down in tears, and of course Lambert himself who having been through a similar loss gives Martin a speech not unlike the words from Anne Lamott above. Lambert also notes at one point that instead of fighting the world, he has chosen to fight the suffering within himself because he notes, “the world would win.”


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I really liked this movie.  It has a couple awkward structural aspects to the way the narrative unfolds and the way Elizabeth Olsen's character is written, but I don't find those particularly damaging.  I just like the way Taylor Sheridan tells stories.  Its an old-fashioned vibe you get from classic crime and western novelists, Tony Hillerman or early Elmore Leonard or something, studded with sharp cultural observations throughout. We cpuld use more of this type of filmmaking.

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I don’t know.  Watched this last night and while it had its moments, a few things really stuck out like a sore thumb.

First, the initial scene with the grieving father was a standout.  Then, the editing of the shootout (both of them, actually) was solid and cathartic.  Finally, the grieving brother and Renner’s conversation was well done.

However, this had some issues.  Spoilers abound.

Did business make this a white savior story?  I get the logic behind the Olson role (naive outsider).  But Renner’s character could have easily been cast as a native role.  I don’t get it.

But the main plot—the oil rig security team is a bunch of evil FBI murdering native killing rapists—makes zero sense. Here is a group of people who exist just to shoot and exact vengeance upon.  They have no motivation to start a shootout.  There’s nothing they accomplish that would not have been better served by just stonewalling.  Let’s say their ambush was successful and they were able to kill all the cops without any losses.  Then what?  Makes no narrative sense.

And how convenient that Renner’s cats are camped out on the same trail and the same mountain as the side trail from the drug house which is also the same trail as the cats, the deceased boyfriend, the deceased girl, and the trail back to the rigs. And that Renner goes back up the trail one last time to run into the killers trail right next to the cats’ lair.  Rolling my eyes.

But that was a tense shootout, and stuff.


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