On average, there are approximately 2,000 gang-related deaths in the United States annually and while many of them involve gang members firing at rival gang members, there is always a percentage of innocent victims caught in the crossfire. Each year those innocent victims include young children who are outside playing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, those fatalities are always the hardest to swallow leaving a trail of mourning family members. However, few of the mourners seek revenge because they don't wish to become the next gang target. However, in director John Woo's (Face/Off) latest movie, Silent Night, revenge is the only thing on protagonist Brian Godlock's (Joel Kinnaman; Suicide Squad) mind.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning in Texas on December 25, 2021. Brian, his wife, Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno; Maria Full go Grace), and their son (Anthony Giulietti; At Midnight) were out in the front yard trying out the Christmas present Santa brought...A bicycle. Suddenly, two cars came racing down the street with passengers shooting at each other and when the little boy was hit and killed, Brian ran after the cars trying to kill the shooters. However, when he was shot as well, he lost his voice box and couldn't speak. At first, he drank to numb his grief but once he sobered up, his focus transferred to avenging his son's death.
Woo, known for his unique directing style and his many successful action films, takes an unusual turn with Silent Night. Since Godlock can't speak, the majority of the movie has no dialogue, and the only sounds consistently heard are the soundtrack and gunfire in the action sequences. Woo also relies more heavily on the storyline in the first two acts, leaving most of the action for the last 30-40 minutes and his transitions from the present to the past and back again are most often interesting.
Kinnaman is well cast as he has strong facial features that can easily be read as he relays his thoughts and feelings. His smile turns maniacal with one twitch of his lip and his eyes can pierce someone through the heart while simultaneously displaying the anguish that is poisoning his soul. Sandino Moreno is also very good at wearing her emotions on her face and Giulietti's expressions generally come across as sweet. Very few words are uttered through the entire 100-plus minute run time and those that are, are muffled. Any other type of "dialogue" is done through text.
While not overly gory, the few bloody scenes in the movie are graphic - from Godluck's surgery to remove the bullet from his throat to a gang member's head getting blown off. Even the moment the viewer can see the blood dripping down the windshield after Godlock kills a gang member who is on the roof of his car is messy as quite a bit of fake blood is used for the effect. Of course, Woo also manages to include his signature, "gun in each hand" shot in more than one scene which always serves to add to the total kill count of the film.
The concept of the non-spoken film is well done making the moments of silence, which are actually few and far between, deafening. The soundtrack and ambient noises take center stage many times and it becomes very apparent they are there, whereas in other films they might be mostly ignored. The visuals are also much more pronounced, making the whole film a rather psychological and sociological study.
John Woo is a renowned filmmaker known for his distinctive style, characterized by specific moments and movements that are consistently present in his works. However, in Silent Night, Woo deviates slightly from his usual approach. However, those who love Woo's other films will be disappointed with the laboriously "slow burn" of the first and second acts before finally getting to the payoff when the action ramps up in act three.