Silent Night Review: John Woo’s Dialogue-Free Thriller Delivers Action, Misses on Story
John Woo’s 2023 film, “Silent Night,” is a unique cinematic experience that merges his renowned action mastery with a bold narrative experiment. The movie unfolds the tragic tale of Brian Godlock, portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, a father tormented by the loss of his young son, who was killed in a gang crossfire on Christmas Eve. This harrowing event not only leaves Brian physically impaired, as he loses his voice to a throat injury but also emotionally shattered, with his relationship with his wife, Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno), crumbling under the weight of grief. In a quest for revenge, Brian embarks on a relentless journey of training and planning, targeting the gang members responsible for his son’s death. What sets “Silent Night” apart is its almost complete absence of dialogue, an artistic choice that intensifies the focus on visual storytelling and the physicality of the performances.
Yes, John Woo is back with visceral action sequences, and it’s great to see the intense, commanding physicality of Kinnaman’s performance. These elements are the film’s strengths, showcasing Woo’s ability to craft kinetic, rhythmically beautiful combat scenes and large-scale vehicular fury. Using music, rather than language, to convey emotion and story is a compelling aspect of the film (queue the doves!).
On the other hand, the narrative has a lack of depth and coherence, with the editing messy as if the film was ‘saved’ in post-production and a storyline that is cliched and underdeveloped, particularly in its portrayal of the antagonists. Also, there’s a lengthy training montage that consumes a significant portion of the film’s runtime.
Sadly, “Silent Night” is a film that showcases John Woo’s enduring talent for staging captivating action sequences but struggles to deliver a compelling narrative. The film’s unique approach to storytelling through action and visuals is noteworthy, yet the overall execution and coherence of the story leave much to be desired. As the final echoes of gunfire fade into the “Silent Night,” we’re left pondering whether silence truly speaks louder than words in cinematic storytelling.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5
Silent Night is in theaters December 1st, 2023.