LET HIM GO

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Thomas Bezucha

Stars: Diane Lane, Kevin Coster, Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan, Kayli Carter, Will Brittain, Ryan Bruce, Booboo Stewart.

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Based on the novel from the late Larry Watson (which was published posthumously in 2013), Let Him Go is a well-crafted tense, pulpy thriller and contemporary western noir.

Montana in the early 60s. George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) is a former sheriff who now runs a horse ranch. His wife Margaret (Diane Lane) is the real power in the family. Then their son Jamie (Ryan Bruce) is tragically killed in an accident, leaving behind his widow Lorna (Kayli Carter) and baby son Jimmy. Margaret tends to be a bit cold towards Lorna but dotes on her grandson. Then Lorna remarries.

Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) hails from a notorious clan who live off the grid in North Dakota’s Badlands. Donnie is abusive towards Lorna and Jimmy, and after Margaret witnesses one such incident she begins to fear for their safety.

But then Donnie disappears, taking Lorna and Jimmy with him. Margaret is determined to find him and rescue Jimmy, bringing him home to raise in a healthy and safe environment. George accompanies her, but the couple soon find themselves out of their depth when they encounter the formidable Weboy matriarch Blanche (British actress Lesley Manville) and her dangerous sons. George and Margaret are caught up in a deadly high stakes game as it becomes clear that the Weboys will not relinquish control of Jimmy or Lorna.

Let Him Go has been directed by Thomas Bezucha, and it marks a quantum leap in both style and quality from his previous film, the lightweight romantic comedy Monte Carlo. Watson’s novel has a spare, lean literary style, and Bezucha’s script remains faithful to the source material. Bezucha takes his time to establish the characters, the Midwest setting and the period detail. The film deals with themes of loss, grief, family, redemption, and the lengths a mother will go to in order to protect her offspring.

Costner and Lane played a married couple previously – as Ma and Pa Kent in Zach Snyder’s  Man Of Steel  in 2013 – and they have an easy going and credible chemistry that suggests they are comfortable with each other, and they communicate so much with just a gesture or a glance. Costner is perfectly suited to the role of the stoic and taciturn George, and his character here seems to embody many of those traits of other noble onscreen heroes he has played. Margaret is the emotional core of the film, and Lane brings strength, compassion and maternal warmth to her performance. Manville, who had a quiet presence in Phantom Thread, is genuinely menacing here as the intimidating matriarch whose folksy façade hides a mean spirit and amoral nature. Manville makes the most of this meaty, showy role.

Jeffrey Donovan (recently seen as an FBI agent in Honest Thief) is creepy and slightly unsettling Bill Weboy, while Booboo Stewart (from the Twilight saga, etc) also registers strongly as Peter, a native American drifter who helps George and Margaret in their doomed quest.

There is some gorgeous widescreen cinematography from Guy Godfree (Maudie, etc) that captures the sprawling vistas and landscapes and gives us a taste of the harsh beauty of the American Midwest. A drive along a country road is filled with a palpable sense of menace. There is an emotional score from Michael Giacchino (who won an Oscar for his work on the animated Up) that nicely underscores the drama.

Let Him Go is a deliberately paced, deceptively moody drama, but it explodes into some shattering Taxi Driver-like violence by the end.

★★★☆

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