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Prey ★★★★



Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro

Release: 5th August (Disney+ Exclusive)

John McTiernan’s Predator is a science fiction masterpiece. Metaphorically, Predator is often compared to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War – a post-war trauma of fighting an ‘enemy’ that had the upper hand in a war they didn’t belong in. Technically, it’s a film that adores its simplicity, from soldiers terrorised by an alien hunter to the memorable one-liners it holds. To this day, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best role. The subsequent sequels – Predator 2, Predators and 2018’s The Predator have tried to replicate that formula, changing the sandbox environment and the stakes raised. But to a degree, they’ve failed to recapture the magic. Director Dan Trachtenberg’s origin prequel Prey is a different kind of beast. Not only does it reset the expectations, but it boldly takes the franchise in a new direction.

Set in the 18th Century Comanche Nation, we follow Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young and highly skilled female warrior eager to prove her worth and value as a hunter. No one, including her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), believes in her abilities, but she believes she’s ready. Armed with her axe and accompanied by her companion dog, she journeys into the Comanche heartland tracking various prey until she discovers something far more deadly stalking her and her tribe. 

Similar to Trachtenberg’s previous film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Prey immerses its audience in a patient and measured build-up. It spends considerable time with Naru and the Camanche community, basking in a cultural environment rarely given such space and depth to showcase its truth. With the necessary breathing room established for its characters, the film’s exploration of Comanche customs, traditions and landscapes mirrors beautifully with Jeff Cutter’s lush cinematography.

One of the many appreciative details about Prey’s change of pace and direction is how it doesn’t feel like a Predator movie! Reminiscent of a David Attenborough wildlife documentary, Patrick Aison’s screenplay playfully toys with the concept of the hunter versus the hunted. That theme has always been the heartbeat of the franchise, where characters are picked off one by one for an excruciating and violent death. But Aison makes the comparison much more explicit, examining the power hierarchy within nature’s food chain. And when The Predator (Dane DiLiegro) is gradually teased and introduced, the circle of life has never been so vicious!

Prey to Premiere With Comanche Language Dub, Marking First Movie Ever

It’s a striking juxtaposition from the hyper-machismo adventures from the 1987 film or the incredibly offensive urban jungle analogy in Predator 2. Trachtenberg’s film is made worthwhile because of its back-to-basics approach, stripping back its elements to focus on the anatomy of hunting. The lack of sophisticated, technological weaponry re-addresses the playing field, forcing Naru, her tribe and The Predator to become more inventive in their survival tactics and the kill. The escalating and atmospheric tension created masterfully builds a brutal and entertaining escapade between its characters and the threats from the open wilderness. And because of how committed it is to its concept, it shows no fear or frailties of buckling under the pressures of being a franchise entry.

Although, that’s not to say there are no Easter egg homages. Fans of the franchise will be rewarded. But the payoff is not just in reliving the nostalgia from its past. They’re well-earned treats delivered through some brilliant moments of guile and wit.

Encapsulating that joy is Amber Midthunder. As the film’s heart and soul, the relatable determination to fight in a world that doesn’t believe in you is what makes her compelling and easy to root for. 

Therefore, it’s a shame that Prey is a streaming exclusive. It’s somewhat of a missed opportunity when something of this magnitude deserves the big-screen experience. However, if there is a consolation, audiences have the option to experience the Comanche language version upon release on Disney+.
Prey more than lives up to its predecessor – it’s up there as the best since the original. Trachtenberg’s vision and confident display of the material revitalises the franchise with a palpable sense of fun and adventure. “If it bleeds, we can kill it”, and Predator is back with a vengeance.

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