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“Not even the gnarliest horror film has left me as haunted as White Material,” critic Steve Dollar begins his Greencine review of the new release from Criterion. “The 2010 film by Claire Denis, a kind of specialist in themes of French colonization and its repercussions, is the work of a director at the top of her game.” Dollar isn’t the only reviewer to pick up on the idea that Denis’ intense contemporary drama about a European coffee plantation owner caught in the midst of civil war in Africa has something of horror about it. For DVD Town, Christopher Long calls the film “brutal and beautiful . . . a harrowing experience, rendered all the more effective by Denis’ refusal to sensationalize anything.” DVD Talk’s Jamie S. Rich also finds the film “haunting,” adding that “it’s an unconventional drama but one with lingering effects, making White Material a film you’ll want to revisit often. Highly recommended.” And Andrew Dowler of Now Toronto writes, “A powerful sense of doom and emerging chaos hangs over Claire Denis’ tale.”
Dowler also praises the performance of star Isabelle Huppert, who, “as always, gives an unmannered, believable performance. I don’t think there’s an actor on earth who can convey more with less.” And for Paper, Dennis Dermody calls Huppert “extraordinary” and the film “disturbing and stunning.” More from Slant’s Glenn Heath Jr. and DVD Verdict’s Clark Douglas.