The Last Son (2021) Review
The Last Son was directed by Tim Sutton (Dark Night, Donnybrook), written by Greg Johnson and stars Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans, Macbeth), Colson Baker (One Way, Bird Box), Thomas Jane (Run Hide Fight, The Mist) Emily Marie Palmer (USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Grand Isle), Alex Meraz (The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Bone Tomahawk), Hiram A. Murray (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Bloodhound Law) and Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, Wander). It’s about an outlaw cursed to be killed by his kin hunting down his children while the last one tries to stop his wrath.
The Plot: Sutton is a big fan of the depths of depravity and The Last Son, like his previous movie Donnybrook, continues to focus on the lengths a man will go to save himself to deliver a story that’s almost incomparable to others within its genre. This darker tone fits extremely well with a brutal story told more with visuals than dialogue, even if said story could’ve used a handful more lines to fill in dead air between conversations. Isaac LeMay (Worthington) has been cursed by a Cheyenne chief to be killed by one of his many sons. Which one is unknown to Isaac, so he roams the land, killing every son he can find, but not daughter Megan (Palmer), in between bouts of narration regarding his story.
After Isaac kills one of the twins fathered by prostitute Anna (Graham), she tells the surviving one, Cal (Baker) about his father’s intentions and he and his gang of two, Patty (Meraz) and Logan (Murray) prepare to kill Isaac whenever he may come. Also in the mix is Solomon, a sheriff tracking Cal and his group for murder, acting as exposition for the audience. The eventual showdown is set up well, even if the time it takes to get there can feel a little long in the tooth. Still, the story is very interesting to watch as Sutton’s inclinations allow him to forge a unique western with a setting that better suits his tones than the modern world does.
The Characters: The players in The Last Son aren’t likeable at all, but creating heroes isn’t Johnson’s goal with the script; instead endeavouring to create a triangle of destiny, so to speak, for the audience to passively observe in as the three attempt to come out on top of the situation unscathed.
Isaac used to be something of a mercenary for the army, cleaning up pockets of Natives that may or may not have been belligerent. Regardless of how he acted before that gig, he’s accepted his punishment after having been “cursed” as he puts it, but “prophesized” as the Natives say, to be killed by his own. A few little moments let the audience know that he doesn’t want to be doing what he’s doing but believes so fervently in the prophecy that he has no choice in the matter. He’s a captivating character, to say the least.
Cal isn’t morally sound either, introduced during a bank robbery and revealed to have been raised in an orphanage without much guidance. He only knows the rumours of what Isaac is doing, and that he never cared for his son, so his hatred for the man is entirely understandable; although this does become one of his few characteristics besides his preference for animals and protective urges towards his mother.
Solomon is more or less caught in the middle of a rivalry he doesn’t understand despite his history with Anna, but he does understand that both men aren’t safe to keep among the living for much longer. His search for the men is tertiary and less interesting than what either LeMay is doing at any given time, but the movie doesn’t spend too much time with him. Megan and Anna are similar in their spectatorship, barely being in Isaac’s mind aside from his initial inquiries, but they do add a different perspective to him; viewing him as more of an entity than any normal man. Normal these characters aren’t, but the main conflict between father and son is engaging without sympathy.
The Drama: Johnson’s screenplay allows for a lot of brooding in its runtime, letting the silence and the score do a lot of the legwork when the actors aren’t given lines. For large stretches of time, this is a viable way for The Last Son to build its drama, but there are a few extended sequences without much noise at all that can plod their way on until the next scene with dialogue.
With three (possibly four, but I won’t give that away) characters ruminating on each other throughout the length of The Last Son, there is a bit of insight provided from each character about their main goal. Everyone that has ever encountered Isaac has deemed him as purely evil, which does slightly differ from reality, but with what each character has heard and seen, it makes sense as to why this rumour has been spread.
Some close calls towards the final third of the movie really nail the idea that this series of events was bound to happen at one point or another, with Isaac and Cal coming face to face before they fight, and always being close in proximity to each other, separated by pockets of violence. The Last Son works well because of this perspective shifting, always imbuing each outlook with evidence. Even when the dialogue is sparse, the drama can still carry on, mostly thanks to Worthington’s acting and some decent tension building.
The Technics: When as much time is spent in scenes of silence as ones with dialogue, the pacing is going to feel off, and indeed it does in The Last Son. Despite running only 96-ish minutes, the movie can feel longer at times and is in dire need of a tighter edit or more spoken lines. Thankfully the visual element is fantastic, the cinematography by David Gallego (I Am Not a Witch, Embrace of the Serpent) beautifully captures the vastness and the darkness of the movie’s setting, harkening back to Unforgiven’s vistas and inky black nights and interiors. The score by Phil Mossman (Alone with You, Cop Car) is equally impressive and manages to raise the feeling of impending action with ease. Sutton once again shows his style here and the movie benefits immensely from his eye.
It (Le)May run too long and be a little too quiet thanks to Tim Sutton’s adoration for looks, but the story and drama of The Last Son are more than enough to pull the movie when it drags. Paired with an almost unrecognizable Sam Worthington and a moody atmosphere, there’s something here for western fans, even if everyone will see the cracks.
The Last Son is currently available in select theatres and On Demand. You can check the film’s website for more details.