Thandiwe Newton stuns in this chilling neo-western

Thandiwe Newton as “Sandra Guidry” in Julian Higgins’ GOD’S COUNTRY. Courtesy of Ezra Olson. An IFC Films release.

Editor’s Note: This review was originally published as part of our sundance film festival 2022 cover on February 4, 2022. It has been expanded and re-released in light of the film’s theatrical debut on September 16.

Judging by the lineup, you’d be forgiven for mistaking ‘God’s Country’ for the remote revenge thriller genre. Liam Neeson trots most of January. But the dark beauty of Julian Higgins’ patient and uncompromising debut comes from the elegance with which he blends his bonafide thriller with rich character study. It’s a thoughtful look at a woman who trusts the systems she engages in — education, law enforcement — only to have them utterly fail her.

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About ‘God’s Country’: A New Kind of Western for a ‘Westworld’ Star

Thandiwe Newton has long been an actress of tremendous poise, power, and vulnerability, and she’s especially good at playing characters that could break your nose and fill your heart in the same conversation. She keeps that hot streak alive with a nice twist as Sandra, a former New Orleans resident who now works as a college professor in a remote mountain town.

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Courtesy of GC Film, LLC. An IFC Films release.

Even as the only black woman, subject to misogynoir (racism and sexism) both overt and covert, she won’t give up the heights. “We all have to play by the same rules if it works,” she tells a group of hostile loggers. For the rest of the film, Higgins’ probing camera and Newton’s bravura performance show us the naivety of that hope, even as Sandra’s stagecraft refuses to play the role of helpless victim when two hunters begin to penetrate. on his property.

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Higgins’ visual style is remarkably assured for a fledgling filmmaker, capturing the icy whites and desolate blues of the film’s remote mountain setting with compositions that accentuate Sandra’s isolation in a predominantly white town. And the ending is a fully deserved punch of desperation, with a closing shot that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Rating: A-

Rated R. 102 minutes. Dir: Julian Higgins. With: Thandiwe Newton, Jeremy Bobb, Joris JarskyJefferson White, Kai Lennox, Tanaya Beatty.

About the writer: Clint Worthington is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He is the founder and editor of The Spool, and senior editor at Consequence. You can find his other work on Vulture, Nerdist, RogerEbert.com and elsewhere.

Make it double duty with “Coyote Lake”, free streaming on tubi

Coyote Lake (2019): The “Riverdale” star Camila Mendes and Oscar nominee Adrian Barraza direct this psychological thriller about a mother/daughter duo who run a bed and breakfast near the US-Mexico border. When two unwanted guests arrive, all hell breaks loose – and not just because of the new arrivals. It turns out that mother and daughter have a big secret of their own, and it threatens to turn everything upside down. Rated TV-MA. 93 mins. Real: Sara Seligman. Also presenting Charlie Weber, Neil Sandilands, Manny Perez.

“Coyote Lake” is streaming for free on Tubiget the app

How to watch “God’s Country”

“God’s Country” debuts in theaters on September 16. It will be available on demand from October 4th.

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Lance B. Holton