kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
Take this review with a grain of salt because the cut I saw was an earlier (and longer) cut, but given how brutal Eggers said the edit has been, I can't imagine this pared down version took too many strides forward in accomplishing his vision. Unfortunately, the version I saw is an utterly confused one, a behemoth of a film that struggles to justify its existence beyond its guttural, animalistic surface - and frankly, it'd be more entertaining if it leaned even further into that, because the scene stealing Hawke and Dafoe (who GET this film) make more of an impression in their minimal screen time than the main cast does throughout the whole thing.
For such a simple plot, I'm surprised at how geographically and thematically incoherent, and how lackadaisical its tension and world building end up being. There's no forward momentum - it plods from one location to the next, mini goals and uninteresting diversions springing up without a clear anchor in the overarching, ultimately empty family dynamics at play. It's two hours of characters reacting to things without urgency, fear, or even really any human emotion, surrounded by but not connected to a visual formalism that's beautiful in a sense because Eggers is talented and entirely singular and painstakingly hyper specific...yet it also doesn't allow the unhinged freedom that was brimming in something like The Lighthouse. It feels like the scope and scale of the story isn't fully clarified, finding its legs in the gonzo opening scenes and the thrilling conclusion but not earning any of what comes between. It's a shame because we don't often see filmmakers, especially of Eggers's ilk, get this type of budget from a studio to make this type of original film. So though I was not a fan, I hope people see it.