Some films require a lot of explanation and plot summary when reviewed. Others need the viewer to know what the basic premise is and whether that premise is executed well or not. Prey is the latest film in the Predator sequence of films and places 18th-century Comanches against the interstellar monster. So the other key information you need is that this idea is executed very well indeed.
Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a young woman who aspires to be respected as a hunter by her tribe. Her brother somewhat indulges her attempts but others in her community are less tolerant. It’s the early 18th century and the world around Naru’s people is beginning to show signs of change. Early on, she encounters an iron trap in the forest, an indication of the encroachment of European hunters into the woods and plains where she hunts.
However, it is the strange weather phenomenon and her hunter’s intuition that leads her to conclude that there is something out there worse than a mountain lion or a bear. Of course, we know what it is, a strange and remorseless killing machine known in popular culture as “European colonialism”, also a weird alien dude with laser sights, heat vision and invisibility.
Naru, her fellow hunters and her dog (who keeps stealing the show) have to contend with the twin existential threats in what becomes a protracted conflict of attrition.
There is a very well-done scene in which Naru encounters the corpse of bison that has been skinned and sees that it sits amid a whole field of skinned bison. The work not of the titular Predator but a gang of French(?) hunters seeking furs. However, that same sense of there being something strange and blood-thirsty, collecting trophies is very well done.
Some people will want to know a key piece of info, so I’ll put it in white text in the next paragraph as a semi-spoiler:
🐕 The dog gets a few injuries but is absolutely fine by the end of the film.
The usual bores have complained about the protagonist being a female. How does a small woman beat the invincible alien Predator when the original one killed a heavily armed troop of US special forces? The same way Arnie kills the original Predator. By the end of the original film, he’s down to using basic guile and improvised traps to kill the monster which has been partly weakened. Also, like in every movie fight against the Predator, the monster applies his own rules including not killing unarmed/defenceless people.
This is also how the film manages to be both a very conventional Predator film and also something more like a folktale about a skilled and clever hunter who must face a strange but oddly rule-driven monster.
Apparently, there is a version that is in Comanche with English subtitles. I saw it on Disney+ and I couldn’t find that option. The version I watched had English dialogue for the Comanches and the European hunters speak French.
Between the fights, there is some great scenery and shots of the natural world. A really satisfying film. Lots going on but also it delivers the basic premise of native Americans versus Predator.