Watch A Single Shot
A Single Shot is a visually stunning slow-burn thriller set in the wilderness of rural West Virginia. Directed by David M. Rosenthal and starring an ensemble cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, and Kelly Reilly, it tells the story of John Moon (Rockwell), a struggling hunter who accidentally shoots a young woman while out in the woods. In his desperation to cover up the crime and avoid prison, he finds himself caught up in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the woman's vengeful family and a group of ruthless criminals.
The film opens with a hauntingly beautiful montage of the Appalachian landscape, setting the tone for the grim and foreboding story to come. John Moon, a quiet and solitary man, is introduced as he struggles to keep up with the demands of his estranged wife and young son while living in a rundown trailer in the woods. He's behind on his rent and can't afford to keep up his hunting license, so he spends his days illegally poaching deer and selling their meat to a local fence (played with seedy charm by William H. Macy).
One day, while tracking a buck through the forest, John sees movement in the underbrush and fires his rifle without thinking. When he investigates, he finds that he's killed a young woman, who appears to have been camping in the woods with her boyfriend. As John tries to cover up the accident, he finds that he's stumbled into a web of criminal activity involving stolen money and drugs - and that a group of dangerous men are on his trail.
Sam Rockwell's performance as John Moon is one of the film's highlights. He's an actor who has always excelled at playing characters who are down-on-their-luck and a little bit damaged, and he brings a quiet intensity to the role that's both compelling and heartbreaking. John is a man who's made mistakes in his life and is haunted by the consequences of his actions, and Rockwell's nuanced performance captures the character's mix of guilt, desperation, and survival instinct.
Jeffrey Wright, as John's best friend and local lawyer, is equally impressive. He has a few standout scenes where he's given some meaty dialogue, and he delivers it with a world-weary gravitas that's both affecting and convincing. Kelly Reilly, as the young woman's grieving mother, is also solid - her character is a bit underwritten, but she brings a raw intensity to her scenes that elevate them beyond what's on the page.
The real star of A Single Shot, however, is the cinematography by Eduard Grau. The film is shot in a desolate palette of blues, grays, and browns, with the occasional pop of red - the blood of the deer John has killed, the taillights of a car driving away from a crime scene. The forest is a character in itself, and Grau captures the eerie beauty of the West Virginia landscape with stunning precision. The camera lingers on the rusted-out machinery and debris that litter the woods, imbuing them with a sense of history and tragedy. Even the most mundane shots - a kettle hissing on a stove, raindrops falling on a windowpane - feel loaded with narrative significance.
The film is not without its flaws. The plot can be a bit convoluted at times, with multiple characters and subplots competing for screen time. There are a few moments where it feels like the film is trying a little too hard to be 'artistic', with slow-motion shots and close-ups that don't add much to the story. And while the ending is appropriately bleak, it's also a little unsatisfying - the film doesn't quite earn the emotional climax it's aiming for.
Overall, though, A Single Shot is a gripping and atmospheric thriller that's well worth a watch. It's a brutal meditation on the cost of violence, and the toll it takes on those who perpetrate it. With strong performances and haunting visuals, it's a film that lingers in the mind long after the credits have rolled.
A Single Shot is a 2013 drama. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 5.7 and a MetaScore of 53.