Silent Night obscures its best moments because of tonal ineffectuality

Matthew Goode as Simon - Silent Night - Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/AMC+
Matthew Goode as Simon - Silent Night - Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/AMC+ /

Christmas is a time for families to get together, bond, and maybe, die together? That’s not a spoiler, but I wish it were. Silent Night is the latest movie available on AMC+. It stars an impressive ensemble cast including Lucy Punch, Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Roman Griffin Davis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Lily-Rose Depp, Sope Dirisu and more as a posh upper-crust English family spending their last night on earth at a country estate for Christmas as they wait and for a global catastrophe to kill them all.

Silent Night 2021 movie review

Sure, your Christmas dinner with family might get bad, but in general, at least you know you’ll wake up to see the next sunrise. That’s not the case in Silent Night. One of the first problems with this movie is the misaimed marketing. I think it was a big mistake to reveal what all of these people have gathered for in the trailer and the film synopses.

It sucks that we live in an age where film trailers are increasingly giving away more and more details. Admittedly, it’s even stranger that the Silent Night marketing team opted to tell audiences about the movie’s “twist” because the entire first act hinges on keeping people in the dark with a false cheery premise.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some surprises in store throughout the movie, but I feel like I might have enjoyed it more if I had gone in completely blind, which is almost impossible nowadays, especially for a reviewer. The twist about the world ending could have been less clunky if the movie itself didn’t try to build it up as a twist if that makes sense.

Silent Night
Roman Griffin Davis as Art – Silent Night – Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/AMC+ /

Silent Night struggles to find its tone and stick to it

The beginning of Silent Night is almost reminiscent of movies like The Family Stone and other excellent Christmas movies with its sharp and witty characters who are all enjoyable to watch interact because the cast is immensely talented and has great chemistry. Even if most of these characters aren’t likable, the actors are, making it entertaining to watch them bicker and poke fun at each other.  But it feels a bit too normal, mainly because we know that they know what will happen at midnight.

Each person has been given an “exit pill” by the UK government so they can die peacefully on their own terms rather than waiting for the poisonous clouds generated by global warming to consume them in what science tells them will be a slow, agonizing death.

There are social and political commentaries in abundance here, although it’s kind of hard to suss out exactly what Silent Night is trying to say. It’s almost like everything happens too fast and too slow at the same time, which usually means the story lacks development. In this case, the script falters because it doesn’t commit to a particular tone or even genre.

Silent Night
Davida McKenzie as Kitty, Rufus Jones as Tony, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Alex – Silent Night – Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/AMC+ /

That said, there are moments in this movie that work really well. One particularly horrifying scene happens near the end when one of the young boys, played by Jojo Rabbit star Davis, runs outside after arguing with his parents. Actually, his entire arc is one of the film’s high points. His doubt about whether the poison will kill him and his desire not to take the pill because well, what if science is wrong? What if humans can survive the poison?

It’s an interesting parallel to the vaccination debate in real-time, but the film comes, international or not, looking like an anti-vax agenda.

But at the same time, it presents an interesting exploration into the generational divide and why boomers’ beliefs tend to be so opposite of the younger generations. Unfortunately, Silent Night doesn’t really say much of anything leading to a shallow movie that feels too damn cruel and depressing to enjoy—not scary enough to be a horror movie, but not funny enough to succeed as a black comedy either. It’s also a shame because cast members like Knightley and Howell-Baptiste are given drastically little to do throughout the 90-minute runtime.

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