David Perrault’s Savage State has a lot going for it; a Western that focuses on a less obvious part of Civil War history, a shady gun-for-hire, and a headstrong family of young women. Unfortunately, it trips over itself once too often to make the most of this potential. This story of a French family escaping the tumultuous American way of life focuses on the wrong things and is in dire need of more pace, with a few glimpses of what could have been.
To Perrault’s credit, the scenario is enticing and the location is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Christophe Duchange, swapping from warm yet vaguely threatening home interiors to swooping shots of misty landscapes. The place is not the problem - it's the people. So little time is spent looking at the characters in any substantial way that the film can’t help but feel lacking in depth. Potential arcs for the story regarding politics, racism, and the role of women in 19th Century USA are largely forgotten in favour of fuelling mystery man Victor Lund’s enigma. It does so with no sense of urgency, the two-hour running time in desperate need of trimming down, and with too many questions unanswered. Too many of the characters won’t stay with you for long either, Kate Moran’s baddie Bettie perhaps the only exception.
Savage State looks and sounds great, but there is not enough kindling to keep this fire burning for as long as it needs to. It is a film crying out for more detail at the expense of the lovely but time-consuming saturation in surface-level beauties.
Release Date: January 29th (US)