PREY (2022)

Amber Midthunder in a still
  • Release Date: 05/08/2022
  • Platform: Disney + Hotstar, Hulu
  • Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp
  • Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Violent, intriguing, and wickedly entertaining! Prey could have been the best predator film to date but…

— Ambar Chatterjee

I knew it. I just knew it. Ever since its first trailer was launched, I knew that this film would be one of those rare prequels that would be nearly as good as its original if not better. While Prey falls marginally short of topping Predator (1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger), it still proves to be the best Predator film since the original. Predators (2010, Adrian Broady) comes in as a close 3rd for me.

Prey unfolds nearly 250 years before Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his company of elite soldiers were wiped out by the killing machine. In what appears to be the predator’s first hunt on earth, the beast is unleashed on a settlement of unsuspecting Indians who are neither prepared for its merciless killing nor have a clue to what just hit them.

Amid all the mayhem is Nuru (Amber Midthunder) an inquisitive, brave, intelligent, and observing Indian who is hell-bent on living the life of a hunter. The problem is that her tribe only allows their woman to grow food and take care of the more domestic chores. She still sets out on her desired path and has the support of her brother who thinks highly of her skills but is unable to speak his heart out in front of the others. As bodies start piling, Nuru’s astute observations, critical thinking, and adaptation to various aspects of hunting and tracking prove to be the only things standing between the predator and the annihilation of her entire tribe.

I loved Prey for a plethora of reasons. Let me bring to your attention everything that I loved about the film and a few things that could have been done better.

A story that constantly surges forward:-

Prey is just about 99 minutes long and every second of those minutes is devoted to the story moving towards a cracking climax. There are prolonged sequences depicting Nuru making her way through the forests and plains, observing, learning, and taking in things that will be used later in the film in sequences where she is shown going up against the predator. Hence these sequences never feel out of place or boring. On the contrary, we are interested to see and understand what Nuru is learning in a given circumstance. There are also sequences of her going up against other animals of the forest other than her primary adversary and these sequences are equally important. It is through these encounters that she not only learns to make her way out of tight situations but also understands the quantum of danger that she is up against. She trains herself through these situations and we see her use all the techniques that she teaches herself in some way or the other against the predator.

I love a story where the protagonist pushes the plot forward. That is exactly the case here. The predator doesn’t come after Nuru and her tribe. There is a possibility that it might do so later but for now, we see Nuru understand the importance of hunting it down and she goes after it with all her might only to realize that it was too powerful for her to get rid of. A lot of the thrill in the film is derived from the fact that the Indians take the attack of the predator to be that of a lion and it remains that way for a long time until they come face to face with their adversary.

The action sequences:- 

As is always the case, the predator is laced with ultramodern technology that includes laser-guided projectiles and a shield that is both a protector and a weapon. The Indians have nothing more than bows, arrows, spears, and tomahawks. It should have been a massacre and not a fair fight but Nuru uses her understanding of her enemy and innovative use of all that she has at her disposal to not only make it an interesting fight but also one that she has a chance of winning.

Every action sequence is different from the other and this keeps the proceedings fresh and never lets the action become repetitive or boring. The topography in which the action unfolds also keeps changing making the sequences interesting. In every action sequence, an additional weapon or advancement of warfare is employed by the predator. This is in addition to his mammoth physical size and advantage over the physically paltry Indians. This makes every fight that much more tense for the Indians and the viewers too who want the Indians to survive against the marauder.

Lack of genuine connection with the supporting characters:- 

The action sequences would have been a lot better had the audiences had some genuine connection with the supporting characters. That would infuse true fear and thrill in these sequences. Unfortunately, the film never gets the time to build these characters up and they are mere people in the scenery for the predator to kill off in innovative ways. Even the death of Nuru’s bother doesn’t leave much of an impact even though the makers try to milk this sequence to the fullest and Amber Midthunder does exceptionally well to convey the dread and tragedy of the moment.

Amber Midthunder’s stellar performance:-

Amber Midthunder’s performance is the glue that holds the entire film together. She is present in almost every frame of the film and she justifies her presence with a performance that is heartfelt, genuine, and earnest. She holds her own in the action sequences and gives the feeling that she can actually pull off the action that she is shown pulling off. This works wonders for the film. She is also someone who brings out the nuances of the drama that crop out of her predicament of being a woman and wanting to be a hunter in her community. She plays out these portions so well that never for a second do you feel it getting out of control or too farfetched.

One must credit the writing too for writing the characters and the situations in a manner that doesn’t paint an unnecessarily patriarchal image of the Indian society. Nuru is independent enough to do what she wants to do. Her bother supports her constantly and even acknowledges the fact that it was her observations and actions that led him to accomplish a major feat. All these elements in the narrative combine to give a compounded impact in terms of the character and help Amber leave an indelible mark on the film.   

Dakota Beavers (on a horse) and Amber Midthunder in a still

Dan Trachtenberg’s astute direction:-

Prey wouldn’t be the film that it is if it was not for the proficient and astute direction of Dan Trachtenberg. He understood what made the first predator film so great, took out all the unnecessary elements from the concept, and gave the predator a leaner and meaner facelift. He also put up a protagonist who was so minuscule in comparison to her adversary that a classic David vs Goliath encounter was ensured. He ensured that the action was as much physical as it was cerebral and was also able to infuse the necessary tension and thrill in every encounter between the predator and Nuru. The only thing Dan missed out on was working on the supporting characters. However, in a film that is just about 99 minutes long, one can be forgiven for not properly developing every character.

Final words:-

Prey is a film that deserved a theatrical release. As one of my friends who I watched this film pointed out, this was a film that needed a theatrical release and should have been shot and released in 3D. The expansive imagery and the wizardry that we witness in the cinematography of it would have been duly honored only by a theatrical run. The sound design of the film is also such that it needed the big screen treatment to be enjoyed to the fullest. Unfortunately, this is direct to the OTT release and I am sure that a large portion of its charm and impact will be lost while watching it on TVs and smart devices with all the unnecessary breaks, pauses, and interruptions.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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