The Dead Don’t Hurt

May 25, 202470/1006 min
Vicky Krieps, Viggo Mortensen, Solly McLeod
Written by
Viggo Mortensen
Directed by
Viggo Mortensen
Run Time
2h 9min
Release Date
May 31st, 2024
Overall Score
Rating Summary

When you talk to people about what type of movies they like, the usual genres come up. For me, I just love movies, so it doesn’t really matter what genre it is, but if you really must know, I do have a favorite. I have always had a love for westerns, but lately there are many that just  don’t deliver. Enter Viggo Mortensen, who has made so many movies better with just his presence. Just imagine what he can do if he also wrote and directed a film. Well, lucky for us, we don’t have to wait, as Mortensen proves he is a triple threat with his film The Dead Don’t Hurt.

In some town in California, we find a man named Holger Olsen (Viggo Mortensen) coming to terms with the death of his wife. While he and his young son are burying her, the mayor, Rudolph Schiller (Danny Huston), comes to visit to tell him of a situation in town the night before. You see, Olsen is the sheriff, and last night someone killed six people, including the deputy, and they think they got the guy. Life wasn’t always like this for Olsen, as times were a lot better when he was in San Francisco and met Vivienne (Vicky Krieps), and they fell in love. Vivienne and Olsen move to a place Olsen has bought, and together they start to turn this house into a home. Everything is going well, but soon a conflict in Mexico has Olsen rejoining the military, leaving Vivienne alone in their home. Vivienne gets a job at the local tavern and catches the eye of Weston Jeffries (Solly McLeod), the son of the most powerful man in town. Of course, Weston gets what he wants, and when Olsen comes back, he is met with a child with his wife and the guilt of leaving her.

The story written by Mortensen shows that he clearly adores characters and performances, as he grounds his story in the people instead of the events that happen to them. Told in both flashbacks and flash-forwards, which takes a small amount of time to get used to, the narrative also gives Vivienne a more poignant and tragic dimension. The Dead Don’t Hurt brings echoes of a type of narrative that feels almost forgotten, as the two lead characters exhibit real emotion all told at a slow pace, while still avoiding being a slow movie.

Contrary to some opinions, the western is not dead, and while it might not receive the treatment it once did, when we do get a good one, it never lets you down. The visuals of The Dead Don’t Hurt, like all westerns, are an essential part of the plot, and Mortensen and Marcel Zyskind beautifully capture the world that these characters inhabit. Although the environment is lovely, the real beauty of The Dead Don’t Hurt lies in the performances, especially those of Krieps and Mortensen, proving they are two of the best actors out there. You could argue that things could have been a little better if the story was more straightforward and maybe a little tighter, but those two are so good that fans of westerns will not care. The film also exudes romanticism, as well as a certain kind of harshness, through the presence of men of power. There is plenty of beauty on display here, as well as restraint, and it all works wonderfully, reminding us why we love film in the first place.

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