This movie started out well, but I should have known better. We see Joel Kinnaman as a dishevelled father excluded from the life of his boys by their entitled mother with her hot shot new partner. At first it looks like a big hit for father’s rights and trying to make men out of soft Generation Zs, but in the end it does a U-turn, which means that there is probably going to be spoilers in this review.
Kinnaman plays Elliot Baker, an almost estranged deadbeat father living in Canada. He has two sons, Bradley Baker (Tom Holland) and Caleb Baker (Percy Hynes White). Baker’s estranged wife cannot stand him and thinks he is unfit to be near his kids, he’s not as good as her new hot shot rich partner. But on this occasion she is forced to let Kinnaman mind her boys. Kinnaman jumps at the chance at takes them north into the icy wilderness.
At first, his kids are unimpressed, the older boy (Bradley, played by Holland) especially. He doesn’t meet up to his expectations as a father, although the younger boy is sold at the first sight of the shotgun. Trope number one I suppose. As Baker takes his kids north to hunt, away from YouTube and Playstation, he finds that they aren’t being raised like boys. ‘God you boys are soft’. In this first half of the movie, they lay it on thick and get us emphasizing with Baker as he tries his hardest to compete and use his time to effect.
Baker though, the perpetual fuck up, gets the trio stranded 30 miles from civilisation and his best bet is to go even further north to an abandoned cabin. After his boys confide that their mother plans to move them to London, Baker snaps. And we enter ‘The Shining’ territory. It’s no longer a case of sympathizing with an unfairly maligned father, but a cliched case of ‘they’re better off without him’. And some negative commentary about firearms too.
Mind you, this film does not deserve the terrible reviews it is getting. For one, the atmosphere is excellent, with beautiful cinematography and a real sense of terrible and frosty isolation. Second, the acting is superb, we definitely see a career best from Kinnaman… some will probably even sympathize with him until the bitter end. The boys also put in good performances with the young Hynes White being a particularly gifted and natural actor. But it’s kind of derailed with just how predictable the whole thing is.
Had it been a straight survival movie, it would’ve been a near classic.