Big Bad Wolves

Big Bad Wolves

  • Big Bad Wolves is a thematically disturbing thriller that lingers in the viewer’s psyche long after its conclusion.
  • Largely thanks to unrelenting intensity. From the first moments, when three children (two of them dressed in blue and one in red) play hide and seek in and around an abandoned building, Big Bad Wolves strikes an ominous tone. The children move in effective slow motion, the camera lingers on their frames and faces, making us appreciate their youthful exuberance, and the young actors capture whimsy in every expression. All while the score pounds away a backbeat heavy portent of grief and dread.
  • We know their game cannot end well, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when it doesn’t.
  • Writers/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado maintain the same tone throughout and thereby continually heighten the viewer’s anxiety.
  • They prove especially adept at using score to create mood, interspersing musical silence, quiet, and loudness so skillfully that we feel exactly as they intend.
  • They are even better at maintaing uncertainty. Until the very end, we do not know whether or not Dror (Rotem Keinan) is guilty. Such ambiguity powerfully accentuates the movie’s theme and thereby makes us uncomfortable. Gidi (Tzahi Grad) and, to a lesser extent, Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) and Yoram (Dov Glickman), may or may not be justified if Dror is guilty. But what if he’s innocent?
  • Which is why I strongly dislike this movie’s final shot. Like the best ethical queries, most of Big Bad Wolves doesn’t have easy answers. I wish the film had ended without clarity.
  • I also wish Yoram had been better developed. When he first learns of Gidi’s actions, he is appalled, as most people would be. Which is why his later decisions are so puzzling. We do not know him well enough to accept his behavior.
  • No matter Dov Glickman’s acting skill. Really, all four of Big Bad Wolves’ principle performers are note-perfect.
  • Moreover, save Yoram, the writers develop their characters well. This movie is plot and theme based, so none of them are three dimensional, but Miki, Gidi and Dror are effectively characterized.
  • Keshales and Papushado also wisely include enough black humor that their movie never becomes too intense.
  •  In other words, Big Bad Wolves has many more strengths than flaws. Despite its few missteps, it is very good.
  • Final Grade: B+

21 thoughts on “Big Bad Wolves

    • Some do. And since this one is about asking ethical questions, and since ethical questions only have grey answers, I think this is one of them.

      For what it’s worth (in my opinion not much), Quentin Tarrantino says this is the best film of the year. I don’t quite agree, but it is good.

  1. I am glad that you liked this as well. Despite it receiving a mixed reaction, I am one of the people who thought very highly of it. Everything you said was right, so I cannot really argue any point. I can say that I thought Yoram was great, but your points on him ring true.

    • I thought the actor who played Yoram was scene stealingly awesome. And that the fire scene was the most blackly funny moment in the movie. Which is to say I thought the character had potential to be terrific, but fell just short of that lofty perch.

  2. Haven’t seen this yet but thanks for the recommendation as it’s the sort of thriller I like and hadn’t heard of it until now.

    • This one is very good, so good that Tarrantino calls it the bet movie of the year. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say it’s everything Prisoners promised to be but didn’t quite achieve.

  3. Good review! I heard good things about this one, but then I saw the trailer and wondered if the torture stuff would be too heavy. You don’t think it’s too bad?

    • Oh. The torture stuff is heavy. Very. And equally unflinching. But it doesn’t bother me, mostly because it is thematically necessary. If this flick is going to hit home as hard as it wants to, it needs to show the characters’ brutality.

      That said, I also acknowledge that I have significant tolerance for such things, at least when they have artistic purpose. Someone with less tolerance will find quite a bit of Big Bad Wolves hard to watch.

  4. Another film to check out! I’d assumed that it was just more Tarantino hyperbole, but if you’re a fan – and you don’t seem to be a horror nut 😉 – I’ll definitely have to see it. Good stuff.

    • I am not a horror nut. In fact, I don’t usually like horror much at all. This one works, though, because it focuses on the theme at every turn, ‘What actions are acceptable when we think we’re serving the greater good?’

      There are definitely some flaws, but on balance it is a really good movie, better than Prisoners, at Prisoners’ own game, no less.

    • I’m not sure what your reaction will be, but as you often read heavier material, I think there’s a good chance you’ll like it. Guess I’ll find out when you publish your review! 🙂

  5. B+ huh? Cool. I’m sold. Glad you liked the film. I have it lined up to watch. One of my reviewers still can’t believe I haven’t seen it yet. Too many movies and so little time! Good work. 🙂

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