God’s Country movie review and movie summary (2022)

No longer simply about one man’s moral struggle to resist the violence embedded within him, “God’s Country” still explores cycles of masculine aggression, particularly in a tense sequence in which the acting sheriff (Jeremy Bobb) interferes in the feud. The near-catastrophic results of this attempt at de-escalation also reveal the hatred many locals—both white and Native—reserve for law enforcement and identify another failed institution Sandra cannot count on.

But “God’s Country” is equally deft in portraying the accumulated burden of Sandra’s experiences as a black woman determined to carve out a place for herself in this rural, troubled part of the country, and as such unwilling to give giving up just an inch of land. in her interaction with the locals. Nathan, whom she meets first, eventually responds to this resilience with a grudging admiration, albeit one that we later learn has been tainted by his upbringing. More frightening is Samuel, played by White with a lean and wolfish hunger that could be more than an intimidation tactic. When Sandra follows him home and asks, “Why are you like this?” in an attempt to gain the upper hand, the dark look in his eyes forces her to make a hasty retreat.

The film also captures the strain of Sandra’s exposure to other threats and forms of racial animus and gender-based violence that constantly pollute the air, including at her university, where the head of department (Kai Lennox) only considers inclusivity to a point and a revelation involving a student she raised (Tanaya Beatty) brings Sandra to a breaking point.

Newton amplifies the dramatic power of this story at every turn, an actress of singular grit and grace who is able to communicate more emotion in a single, smoldering glance than pages of dialogue could reveal. (Yes, Newton’s central role on HBO’s “Westworld” often seems designed to show this.) She’s in every scene of “God’s Country,” rising to the occasion with a performance of fierce strength and vulnerability, the greatest of her career. Although the film’s mood of solemn restraint also characterizes her work, Newton exposes Sandra’s inner struggle between lived defiance and learned despair as the struggle of her life.

And so the development of her character’s bone-deep weariness—the hardening of her anger, strength, and convictions into a cold, obliterating fury that drives the film to its conclusion—has the inevitability of a gathering storm, a reckoning, and a tragedy. “Sometimes it feels like things never change,” Sandra tells her students. “But I promise you they will. They will.”

As “God’s Country” reaches its darkly stirring final shot, we’re left to question what sacrifices are required to break the cycles of violence and systemic oppression that have informed so much of America’s history, society, and identity. It’s a question posed in a different way by the film’s very first scene, which takes place in a darkened classroom as a slide projector throws image after image of American conquest onto a screen—a bison hide tripod, two white men looming over a native tribesman, a black woman with one bruised eye – to now see more clearly for others than us.

“God’s Country” is in theaters Sept. 16.

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