Written by: Matt Patti | August 13th, 2020
The Silencing (Robin Pront, 2020) 2 out of 4 stars.
The Silencing is a crime thriller starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Exit Plan) as an alcoholic, reformed hunter named Rayburn whose daughter has been missing for five years. He now spends his time alone at a house in a nature sanctuary in which he patrols. His main function is to catch hunters who come to the preserve illegally and take them off of the property and confiscate their weapons. Once a man of much renown within his profession, Rayburn now refuses to hunt and takes his position at the sanctuary very seriously.
The plot is set in motion when the police find a dead young girl in the woods. Rayburn, still holding out hope of finding his missing daughter, rushes to see the body and determine if it is his daughter, but it isn’t. Later, Rayburn is looking at the surveillance cameras in his house by the sanctuary and sees a hunter in a ghillie suit disabling them. Rayburn goes out to investigate but is attacked by the person in the ghillie suit. He also sees a girl running through the woods, away from the hunter. Rayburn soon finds himself stuck in the middle of a dangerous game, with his sanctuary as the arena.
Unfortunately, with all the potential The Silencing has to be an intriguing thriller, it is largely underwhelming and run-of-the-mill. Both the characters and the plot itself are not quite interesting enough. The concept of a killer hunting humans with a bow and arrow sounds promising, but it is executed poorly and therefore uninteresting and bland. For the entire first half of the film I found myself uninvested, wondering when something of interest would take place to engage me in the story. Near the beginning of the second half, a very interesting event takes place but is only glossed over for about 20 minutes before returning to the mediocre, cookie-cutter killer thriller.
Our main character, Rayburn, has a decent backstory, clear attributes and an interesting past, but his actions throughout the film and interactions with other characters don’t really inspire any interest at all. I can see how the filmmakers are trying to go for the tragic character, since he is a reformed hunter who now protects animals but still suffers from alcoholism and regret, and that should be engaging enough for the audience to get behind his character, with his flaws acting to humanize him. But it is not engaging enough for the most part, and Rayburn comes across as a dull central character. He has some good development towards the end of the film, but it doesn’t make up for the large majority of the rest where he is uninteresting and stagnant. The other characters aren’t much better. Save for a Sheriff who has some interesting development and hard choices to make, all of the additional supporting characters contribute next to nothing to the film. The performances the actors/actresses give as these supporting characters are also not very good, with some awkward line delivery taking the viewer out of the film.
The plot is much like many other killer-mystery plots out there and does not really add anything new or fresh to the genre, save for the actual method the killer uses to hunt the victims. The killer in the film, while surely unique, is also not very intimidating or threatening. The identity and ultimate motive of the killer seems rushed, forced, and completely out of left field, as if the filmmakers knew they had to make a reveal before the film ended and just shoved something in there. The conclusion of the film is ultimately satisfying, though, and is surely the best part of the film, with the most tension, emotion, and intrigue.
The Silencing is not a completely bad film and has some strong points, but drowns in mediocrity and genre tropes for the majority of its runtime. If it would explore some of the potentially intriguing twists it teases then it would be a much better film, but sadly they turn out to be just red herrings and the film returns back to its tired, plain plot. It’s well-made, technically, and has some good moments of tension, but is ultimately held back by lackluster performances, uninteresting characters, and a plot that you’ve seen before that also feels messy and rushed. If The Silencing were to speak up a little louder and divert from the beaten path, the filmmakers could have something remarkable on their hands. Unfortunately, the film quietly walks down a familiar road.
[The Silencing is available in theaters, on demand and on digital starting August 14, 2020.]