PLOT: Following the death of their son, a husband (Kevin Costner) and wife (Diane Lane) try to rescue their grandson from the clutches of a sinister family, which their former daughter-in-law has married into, living off the grid in the Dakotas.
REVIEW: LET HIM GO is something of a throwback. Years ago, when adult-focused thrillers weren’t all that rare, it would have seemed like a very decent programmer, but now it feels almost miraculous. How often do you get well-produced, classy thrillers starring two fifty-plus leads that dare to be contemplative but also have a bit of an edge to them? Such a movie is LET HIM GO, an unexpected gem, directed by THE FAMILY STONE’S Thomas Bezucha, who makes a welcome return in his first film since 2011’s MONTE CARLO.
Basically, this is a Neo-western, with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane playing to type as a retired sheriff and his tough-as-nails, loving wife. One of the tropes of the western genre has always been the outlaw family and LET HIM GO has a doozy in the matriarchal Weboy clan, which are very reminiscent of the Gerhardt family in “Fargo” season two, right down to Jeffrey Donovan as the deranged enforcer/oldest son. Lesley Manville, of THE PHANTOM THREAD, plays the movie’s big bad, Blanche Weboy, who rules the roost – dressed to the nines and possessing a hair-trigger temper that keeps everyone in line. Watching her go toe-to-toe with the iconic likes of Lane and Costner is a treat.
Indeed, something seems quite right in seeing Lane and Costner as a comfortable older couple that are still in love and yearn to raise their beloved grandson as their own. One can’t help but note the strong parallel to their roles as the Kent’s in MAN OF STEEL, and to be sure the premise has some similarities, with them playing pseudo adopted parents in both. They have a much rougher time of it here, with Blanche a cold-blooded adversary, necessitating a harsh, violent finale that takes no prisoners.
One of the best things about LET HIM GO, which is based on a novel by Larry Watson, is that Costner and Lane as the Blackledge’s aren’t portrayed solely as white-hatted good guys. The film acknowledges that Lane’s Margaret is stubborn and even reckless in the way she under-estimates and pursues the Weboy clan. She’s also keenly aware of how dangerous her husband can be if pushed, making the bloodbath finale inevitable and arguably just as tragic as it is rousing. Both of them play to type but are ideally cast.
While Manville is certainly the film’s main villain and chews the scenery, Jeffrey Donovan is also perfectly cast as the sociopathic older son, capable of both charm and deranged acts of violence in what’s essentially a reprise of the part he played on “Fargo”. Booboo Stewart also has a nice role as a local Native American escapee of a residential school, who helps the older couple in their quest, but has enough agency to know the two are pushing things way too far with the Weboy clan. Of everyone, the only part that seems thinly sketched is Kayli Carter as their wayward daughter-in-law, who’s portrayed as terminally useless, at least compared to Lane’s iconic woman of the west.
Technically, the film is impeccably put together with beautiful location photography by Canadian DP Guy Godfree (Alberta doubles for the American mid-west) and a terrific, low-key score by the great Michael Giacchino. LET HIM GO is a hidden gem, and hopefully, with big-screen entertainment limited at the moment, folks will come out and discover this slightly old-fashioned, very entertaining thriller. It’s the best movie to hit theaters since TENET.