Joseph Kosinki has always been a director who puts form well before substance. It was like that with Tron: Legacyhis debut as a feature film director and remains the same to this day, despite the mega-hit he amassed with another sequel more than late, this time from best gun, and now with spider heada confined-space movie that has the glossy veneer of a blockbuster that sometimes feels like a prison movie, sometimes james bondbut which, in fact, hides a script that starts from a good idea, but does not know how to carry it out.
The confined space in question is an experimental drug lab that serves as a penitentiary for convicts who volunteer to trade uncomfortable prison life for a place that would be the envy of many a five-star hotel, starting with its location on an island paradise and passing through the modern and comfortable facilities, with the right to a wide range of food gourmet and various entertainment. The price, of course, is that each inmate serves their sentence serving as a guinea pig for new drugs, all of which refer to the senses, sensations and emotions, such as one that generates immediate terror in the patient or another capable of make two people fall madly in love. At the head of this prison which does not even have guards, we have Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) who seems to embody the happiness and sweetness of doing what he does, but who, of course, hides a terrible secret.
And this secret begins to be revealed by one of the guinea pigs, the prisoner Jeff (Miles Teller), the catalyst being his growing relationship with prisoner Lizzy (Jurnee Smollet) which makes him more caring about her and less obedient to Abnesti’s increasingly unethical demands – which require prior, explicit, verbal consent – something that Kosinski, so that no one has l shadow of a doubt, telegraphs using Mark Verlaine (Marc Paguio), Abnesti’s assistant, like a kind of human emoji, that is, reacting in an increasingly tense, anxious and confrontational way as the hole widens. The big problem with the feature film is that when the news ends, that is, when this first half introduces us to the environment, the characters and the various injections of various drugs, in addition to showing in detail what will happen in the second part – because if there’s one thing this script lacks, it’s subtlety – spider head begins to dive like a fleeing plane towards the nearest mountain face.
As villain and drug HQ decor becomes commonplace, setting the stage for what could be effective critiques of the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry, the commodification of the prison system, the overweening ambition and all, the script is coy and intimidated and the story becomes a Thriller in French of painfully generic action, of those which make the spectator yawn more than the simple consultation of a mobile phone. We have the feeling that the screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernickwho even have smart movies under their belt like dead Pool and zombieland (among other bullshit, it’s worth remembering…), they decided to take their foot off the accelerator so as not to demand too much from the viewer, making the film itself another experimental drug additionally used in the entertainment industry: Preguisyn, which leads to a feeling of comfort and numbness, which does not require much thought, which places the viewer in a comfortable corner to simply smile and greet while losing a few points of IQ in the process.
And without having much to say, Kosinski goes off to do what he does best, which is to try to embellish everything with the cast and with flourishes of scenery and staging, which, by the way, only amplifies the effects of the drug mentioned above. However, justice is done, all is not lost, because spider head shows something that’s been seen here and there for quite some time: Chris Hemsworth isn’t just a mountain of shapely muscles. The actor seems capable of taking on more demanding roles and his Steve Abnesti shows that in moments precisely because he’s not a character cut out of cardboard (ok, that’s a bit, but not that much ) and travels between sympathy and psychopathy with great ease. Who knows, maybe one day we will see the actor working on a film whose script will really open these dramatic doors to him?
spider head, of course, is not this movie. Not far away. For Hemsworth in particular, I’d say it’s even a step forward, but the problem is that everything around him has an empty beauty that tires and disappoints anyone not under the heavy effects of Preguisyn, making wither and pale his game completely, especially in the chaotic. last third where nothing really supports the internal logic. Kosinski is another who has the potential to combine substance with his form, but he doesn’t seem very interested in going that route…
Spiderhead (USA, June 17, 2022)
Direction: Joseph Kosinsky
Road map: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick (from a short story by George Saunders)
Cast: Miles Teller, Chris Hemsworth, Jurnee Smollett, Mark Paguio, Tess Haubrich, Angie Millikan, Stephen Tongun, Daniel Reader, Sam Delich, BeBe Bettencourt, Joey Vieira, Ron Smyck, Nathan Jones
Duration: 106 mins.