Savage State (L'état sauvage) is a western drama/thriller centering around a family of French settlers during the American Civil War. Forced to abandon their Missouri home and flee to Paris, a troubled former mercenary aids them on their journey. Written and directed by David Perrault, Savage State is a film that begins with an interesting idea, and unfortunately, as a package — it fails to deliver.
The premise. The concept is fantastic and had the potential to touch on some cool themes and ideas. The story is one we haven’t seen before — French settlers in the American South during the civil war. Westerns tend to be a male-dominated genre. This film is very much female-centered, which is another aspect that would attract many viewers. It sounds fantastic on paper and has a good logline, but the resulting film does not take advantage of its fascinating setting, premise, or potential for compelling themes. Savage State is supposed to be a slow-burn thriller, but there were no thrills.
The characters. The acting is, at times, wooden and far too serious. Many characters act like they are the coolest character there. It’s off-putting —every one of the characters is a caricature. They explore no real themes and remain two-dimensional throughout. Savage State lacks aspects of a serious drama, and the actors seemed unable to carry their weight.
The look. The cinematography is very okay most of the time. It’s certainly not ugly, but it’s not particularly good-looking either. Much of the camera movements are unmotivated and awkward — it draws negative attention to itself. However, there were some visually interesting high-up shots sprinkled throughout the film. The costumes seem period-accurate and fit each character well. The scene-stealers were the big beautiful ballroom dresses. Additionally, the set design was appropriate, and the home furnishings were well-decorated. It showed the charms of the old setting with a bit of romanticism.