The Dead Don’t Hurt


Believe it or not Viggo Mortensen’s first big screen role was playing a member of the Amish community in Peter Weir’s 1985 Witness.

The 65-year-old, New York born actor now has over 60 acting credits to his name, which include appearing one of the most popular fantasy franchises in Lord of the Rings, as well as be nominated for an Oscar three times, with the most recent for his leading role in 2019’s Green Book.

Not only does he star in this latest film, he also wrote, produced, wrote the music for it, and directed for the second time.

boom reviews The Dead Don’t Hurt
And i'm gonna called ...Las Vegas!!!

1860’s San Francisco, and French Canadian Vivienne (Vicky Krieps) is being aggressively courted by a wealthy art collector (Colin Morgan), but she’s finding his advances tiring.

She then meets a mountain of a man, Holger Olsen (Mortensen), whom she quietly falls for, and soon finds herself following him to his homestead in the outback of northern Nevada. Like you do.

She’s slightly distressed by the basic accommodation she now finds herself in, with his cabin and land needing a lot of attention.

He then one day announces that he has to leave, feeling drawn to participate in the Civil war, which means leaving Vivienne alone. It soon transpires than neither was a good idea – his leaving and her staying- as their world’s crumble with the couple apart.

boom reviews The Dead Don’t Hurt
Ok, so did you just fart or was it me?

This is an interesting sophomore attempt behind the camera with Mortensen embracing the western genre, albeit in a far from conventional fashion.

It is a slow burner, that doesn’t ever feel comfortable going any further than a trot throughout as far as pacing is concerned. It’s a character piece, and romance, first and foremost, with any of the other tropes of the western merely trappings.

Mortensen makes a lot of editing, relying a lot as he does on flashbacks, which unfortunately don’t particularly serve his film well. It opens strong enough, with a number of deaths, but then his reliance on the flashback, and flash forwards, prevent the narrative from developing any kind of rhythm. And sadly it’s a case of the audience already knowing the outcome, but really not that fussed in discovering how we got there.

It’s certainly more Heaven’s Gate than True Grit, yet doesn’t quite capture the beauty of the West as that film does, feeling all the more practical. It probably has more in common with Jane Campion’s recent The Power of the Dog, in terms of both success and failure.

Maybe Mortensen just wore one too many hats, and should have just stuck to the one he wore on screen, as no one single element he’s involved with shines, with the exception being a notably impressive film score. But with a story so utterly generic, it’s disappointing that it lacks any real originality.

There are signs that this feature could have excelled a lot more in nearly every department, but with Mortensen so heavily involved in all of them, the result is sadly watered down across the board.

At least it’s good to see that the western itself isn’t dead, even if Mortensen’s film appears to be suffering from a number of self-inflicted injuries that it looks like it won’t recover from.

we give this three out of five