A Solidly Crafted B-Movie Showcasing Two Strong Lead Performances
After a huge success in an actor’s career, it can be difficult to disengage oneself from such a property. It has occurred to the actors of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and even Star Wars. There are a few exceptions, of smart performers who decided to shift to the indie sphere in order to create a new persona: Robert Pattinson, Daniel Radcliffe, etc. After the global success that was Game of Thrones (2011-2019), it is natural for many of the actors to struggle to differentiate themselves. It was encouraging then to see one of the stars, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister in the series), wisely go into the indie sphere.
The Silencing (2020) is the story of a small American town. We mainly follow the alcoholic custodian of a nature sanctuary Rayburn (Coster-Waldau), who is unable to get over the disappearance of his daughter some five years before. However, when the body of another young girl washes up from a river, new sheriff Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis) begins to suspect a link between it and other disappearances. The appearance of a mysterious violent hunter in Rayburn’s sanctuary only seems to add to the mystery engulfing the town.
This kind of direct-to-DVD film is likely to be passed over by many viewers, and this act proves to be wise as straight-to-DVD is a training ground for young filmmakers; meaning one can either see some very promising films or some devastatingly bad ones. The Silencing is written by first-timer Micah Ranum and is the second film of director Robin Pont. This collaboration, thankfully, proves to be a promising one. The Silencing proves to be crafted with more attention to detail and character psychologies than one would expect from the film’s B-movie category. That’s not to say, however, that the film gets to dig deep into another filmic dimension. The mystery checklist is still completed in a predictable fashion, even if with a bit more style.
Pont proves to have a good hand with his actors, managing to get some very impressive performances from his two leads. Coster-Waldau is able to take on a very different character, in many ways, than his Game of Thrones persona, and he proves to be just as convincing here. The actor is able to give Rayburn a certain likeability, despite his obvious flaws, so that viewers feel very attracted towards the prospect of rooting for him. Wallis, meanwhile, delivers the best performance of her career. The Australian actress had been a figure that had almost been forcefully shoved into blockbusters, as if executives were trying to manufacture her into a star. However, the actress had failed to deliver in films such as The Mummy (2017), Annabelle (2014), or King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). It is in The Silencing that she (perhaps without so much pressure) is able to let loose and truly dig into the complex character of Sheriff Gustafson.
The Silencing is able to deliver entertaining and to-the-point action and tension. There are stunning visuals thanks to some very effective cinematography from Manuel Dacosse, however, it is here that perhaps Pont indulges in too much. The Silencing is able to craft its own aesthetic; however, Pont gives this much more weight than the more important surrounding narrative. The result is a much more dramatic visual feel than the actual content requires. This can be seen most clearly in the film’s themes, which aside from the blatantly symbolic way of showing a process of grief, there’s not much else the film has to say.
In the end, The Silencing proves to be a rather well-crafted B-movie that nevertheless doesn’t stray too far from its generic constraints. Some rather strong performances and an appealing aesthetic make the film gripping and entertaining enough, and for a straight-to-DVD movie that’s really all you could ask for.