Outer Range Review – Josh Brolin confronts the unknown in a vexing mystery | Josh Brolin

There’s a giant void in the middle of Amazon’s new sci-fi series Outer Range, literally at first and then figuratively at the end. In the vast expanse of Wyoming, between two competing farms, lies a bewildering hole in the ground, the meaning of which is unknown. It baffles and compels those who discover it, including us for a while, until at the end of eight frustrating and haphazard episodes, exhaustion sets in. Despite the extraordinarily majestic visuals and a hard-working cast insisting otherwise, it’s really nothing. at the base.

Giving us strength through any mystery box show, from Lost to the most recent Severance, is a strong and often haunting desire to find out what lies hidden at its center, a desire so strong it must outweigh growing impatience. There’s considerable intrigue at the start here, an opening episode that begins as a Yellowstone-style western before sliding into a cross between the Ozark-adjacent crime drama and Stranger Things-esque sci-fi fantasy. At the very least, it’s an unexpected drink.

Josh Brolin, driving something of a genre high after Deadpool 2and Dune and shooting half the world in the Marvel universe, plays Royal, a grizzled rancher (is there another type?) who finds a perfectly formed and utterly terrifying hole in him. land. Where he goes and what that means has to be determined but his discovery coincides with the arrival of a mysterious visitor, played by Imogen Poots, and news of legal action to reclaim the land he belongs to, driven by his eccentric neighbor, played by 11th-rising Will Patton. Breaking down the what-and-what-what that follows would be unfair, drift deep into spoiler territory, and downright difficult, given how incredibly opaque the show is.

While the Outer Range may have the glossy aesthetic of a high-end prestige television — it’s produced by Brad Pitt’s Oscar-winning Plan B production company and, rarely for a streaming show, more like a movie than a series — its growing collection is hardly explained by the oddity of positioning it closer to a genre show. special – SyFy Channel on a budget if you will. The weirdness builds up thick and fast, both in the disorganized plot (which in some episodes feels less plot-like and more like weird stuff followed by weird stuff followed by weird stuff) and how the story is told and done, with one character repeatedly breaking into songs. to sing classic pop and soft rock songs, and other actors often use long, exaggerated shouts to the sky.

Just to further confuse the tone and us as the audience, it was created and mostly written by the screenwriter, Juilliard alumnus Brian Watkins, which means quite often, if not in the end. also often, characters will pause to deliver a stage monologue. If all of this sounds very discordant then it barely scratches the surface, and soon becomes a draw, all the intrigue of the initial raised eyebrows, which allows for a non-binding yet reassuring sense of “what am I watching?”, melting into a pool of distraction and apathy. .

Brolin’s dependable shoulders carry the load of the show quite efficiently, even if all of this doesn’t really weigh him down, but Poots, tasked with a much more complicated character, never really gets as bewitching as he’s meant to be and the electricity that should be triggered by their debate. quickly exhausted. It’s also disappointing that two good female actors are being abused on the margins: Lili Taylor as Brolin’s wife who suffers from a weak faith crisis and the fantastic Deirdre O’Connell, who recently gave an outstanding appearance on Broadway in Dana H and who was only allowed to briefly raise her as a vengeful matriarch before being sidelined.

As big as the show’s left-hand side may be, it’s still very much trying to be a family drama rooted in the characters, but while it mostly feels like an escalation of the moment rather than building the story toward something, it’s hard to find anything to really hold onto.

Taken separately, some of the horrors are often effective and it really is a true pleasure to see a show that deviates from the devastating flatness of so much streaming content. Even without the heavy weight that difficult locations put, this film is made with an art in mind that more small screen directors can adopt.

But the eye-catching visuals only serve to remind us of the lack of traction elsewhere, the show tries to say something about fate, faith and family but falls short on depth in all respects. As is now all too often the case with the vexing expansion of the television world to far, far beyond its breaking point, there may be, not even certain, a more effective two-hour film buried here, sunk in the bearing. At a bloated eight-episode run, this one lacks reach.

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