How far are you willing to go to save your family? That’s the central tenet of burning neo-western Let Him Go, which hits audiences with the force of a double-barrelled shotgun and features career-best performances from both Diane Lane and Kevin Costner.
Following the loss of their son, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife Margaret (Lane) leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from the clutches of a dangerous family living off the grid in the Dakotas, headed by matriarch Blanche Weboy. When they discover the Weboys have no intention of letting the child go, George and Margaret are left with no choice but to fight for their family.
Director Thomas Bezucha takes audiences into the deep, dark abyss of the battle between good and evil in Let Him Go…and this film keeps you on edge the whole way through. Building off of the tradition of classic neo-westerns such as No Country For Old Men and Wind River, Let Him Go is a slow-burn thriller with a serious pulse that grabs its audience and won’t let go. With a solid narrative and the great central casting of Diane Lane and Kevin Coster as Margaret and George Blackledge, Bezucha’s Let Him Go is a pure old-testament tale of family loyalty and revenge and fans of the western genre will be well-pleased with this one.
Using the 1960s as his backdrop, Bezucha dials up the intensity gradually until it is at a nerve-racking high. There are moments here that will have you shuddering with fear as the Blackledge’s confront the backwoods horrors of the depraved Weboy Clan, who are led by the terrifying Blanche Weboy. Bezucha stacks the chips up against the Blackledge’s in his film, and as the narrative picks up speed you never know which corner you’re going to turn down. There is a genuine surprise factor to this film and audiences who think they’ve seen it all will be in for a shock with this one.
Taking the central lead in Let Him Go is noted actress Diane Lane and she’s perfectly cast as lifelong cowgirl Margaret Blackledge. And Margaret won’t stand idly by when her family is threatened. As the doting grandmother to grandson Jimmy, Margaret will do anything to protect him and when she suspects that something is wrong with the family that Jimmy’s mother has married into she strives to bring him back to her homestead no matter the cost. Lane wrestles with a plethora of emotions as Margaret in the film and she carries a considerable toughness and frontier resolve that allows her to stand up to the intimidating threats of Lesley Manville’s Blanche Weboy. Lane’s performance as Margaret Blackledge is a career-best on her behalf and she’s certainly one fierce grizzly when it comes to protecting her young.
Standing next to Lane is noted western veteran Kevin Coster as Margaret’s husband George, and this former gunfighter has to pick up the steel once more to do battle against a burning evil. Costner fits perfectly as this aging cowboy and carries a considerable authority with his performance as this stoic man of the land. He’s a reserved man of action, who when push comes to shove is ready to throw a punch and who is unafraid of the consequences if it means setting the wrong things right. His performance is one of the most heroic that I’ve seen from a cinematic protagonist in a long time and his actions certainly affect you by the film’s end.
Standing between the Blackledge’s and their reunion with their grandson is Lesley Manville as the vile Blanche Weboy, the deranged matriarch of a sinister North Dakota hick family. And she gives a frightening performance in Let Him Go. From the moment you lay your eyes upon Blanche you know there is something off about this woman, and her sinister intentions towards the Blackledge’s only becomes more intensified as the narrative moves forward. Manville carries a frenzied terror about her as Blanche and commits some unspeakable acts during the film that will make you shudder as an audience member. It’s been a while since I can remember seeing a villain this depraved, and Manville certainly puts the scare factor into Let Him Go.
Attention to detail is at the forefront of Bezucha’s mind with Let Him Go, and this film offers a visual feast of images. Taking his influence from the classic Americana style of artists Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth, Bezucha’s uses a tonal palette of earthy greens, greys, blues and yellows to explore the last echoes of the American West and its dark undertones. Working in-hand with cinematographer Guy Godfree, the two craft some striking looking images that take audiences deep into the western spirit of Let Him Go, and their focus pulls the audience further into a very compelling narrative.
As a neo-western, the subject matter of justice and revenge is a vital part to the story of Let Him Go, and the intensity of this film hits with the crunch of a hatchet blade. Taking inspiration from the narrative work of Cormac McCarthy, Bezucha keeps his audience on edge the entire time throughout the film, with a notable scary moment being the most horrendous dinner scene imaginable. Let Him Go is a cowboy tale of redemption and both Lane and Costner not only ‘talk the talk, but walk the walk’ as the Blackledge’s, sacrificing everything in order to rescue their grandson in old school pugilistic fashion.
Let Him Go is a movie of pure true grit. A harsh neo-western of family loyalty and extreme justice, this is the type of film we haven’t seen for some time and audiences will leave the theatre with their hearts thumping after this one.
Image: Universal Pictures