film reel image

film reel image

Thursday, February 9, 2023

God's Country 2022 * * * Stars


A fraught college professor from New Orleans moves to a small town out in lower Montana. There she becomes irked by some townies who feel the need to claim their Podunk turf. That's the blueprint for 2022's God's Country, a slow burn drama that is listed as a thriller. Hey I get it. There is confrontation and a shooting or two but "Country" takes its time, bemused by suspect character motivations, lawlessness, and tranquil mystery. In truth, you watch it ultimately trying to figure out where things are headed.  

Bare questions aside, God's Country rides on the deft direction of Julian Higgins, the wintry cinematography by Andrew Wheeler, and the calculated performance of one Thandiwe Newton (she portrays Professor Sandra Guidry). Higgins commits to every shot as he somewhat catches the viewer off guard. I mean it's what you don't see in "Country" that feels more numbing than what you could've seen. I was besotted with it all. As for Newton, well she underplays and does it well, her persona an enigma, possibly a rootless instigator. Thandiwe's eyes are well, an acting tool. Heck, she always seems to appear downcast, like the girl lost her dog in a messy car accident. 

Now do I feel compelled to recommend God's Country? I do and I will. The film's look is beautifully unsettled, desolate and cold with canvased wide shots of good old Big Sky. And would I say "Country" is perfect in its overall framework? I wouldn't go that far. There's a mild Straw Dogs approach here where things could've been left well enough alone. Oh well. God's Country needs to corral its 102-minute running time. It's a movie after all and to omit a forced "eye for an eye" SITU would just leave things floating in the wind. Honest to "god". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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