Spiderhead movie review: Another sequel from director Joseph Kosinski, in which Miles Teller appears, comes out in 2022. It feels like a pandemic project that he made while waiting for the release of Top Gun Maverick.
The director of Top Gun: Maverick, the writers of both Deadpool movies, and starring Thor himself may have demanded tentpole status not two years ago, but in today’s oversaturated market, it comes with virtually the same level of hype as Avrodh 2 on ZEE5.
Spiderhead is a slick, self-contained sci-fi thriller inspired by 1970s dystopian films like Logan’s Run, although it may remind younger audiences of Michael Bay’s The Island. Chris Hemsworth plays the pseudo- protagonist in this Tom Cruise copy called Maverick, while Miles Teller gets the better story. An inmate named Jeff is imprisoned at a top-secret facility overseen by Hemsworth’s Steve and stars as an electric young actor.
The subterranean complex resembles one of those Nordic penal colonies where even violent offenders reside in minimum-security cottages with views of fjords. And, without a doubt, Steve never fails to remind the residents that they are being granted a wonderful existence despite their terrible crimes. Jeff, for example, was involved in a vehicle accident that killed his friend – a plot point that is eerily similar to something that really happened to Teller, leaving him with emotional scars and facial wounds that he occasionally discusses in interviews.
Of course, there’s a catch to why Spiderhead’s felons are so unconstrained. The prison, we learn, is at the center of some frightening research projects. Jeff is also an excellent subject for Steve because he doesn’t need to apply much force to get him to participate in his increasingly unethical human experiments.
Steve has developed a number of medicines that, when injected into a human being, can make them emotionally pliable. One drug influences their sex drive, while another affects their mood. There’s also one that makes people more articulate. But Steve’s primary goal is to perfect something more substantial: a love drug that replicates the sensation.
The Spiderhead is a modest Kosinski film, but it’s an excellent showcase for his filmmaking signatures such as the contemporary architecture that he has always been drawn to, the digital cinematography by Claudio Miranda, and Joseph Trapanese’s electronic score. These are all superficial comments, however most of Kosinski’s movies focus on solitude. While in Tron Legacy, Oblivion, and Maverick, the characters represented a more literal solitude, Spiderhead is the first time Kosinski has actively addressed these concerns through plot. Steve is a mad scientist, but he’s also very similar to Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn in Tron Legacy or even Tom Cruise’s Maverick from Top Gun 2 – characters who are so focused on their tasks that they’ve lost nearly every personal relationship they’ve ever had.
What’s fascinating about Spiderhead is that it isn’t set in the distant future, which makes some of its concepts seem more pressing. Steve, for example, employs iPhones to administer the inmates’ drugs by monitoring their dosages. The vintage planes and boat that can bring people from the island to the mainland – a plane and a boat – are all really classic, as is the film’s old-school rock soundtrack.
Spiderhead, on the other hand, never fully comes together. Steve is a one-dimensional character who is adored by everyone and does everything for others; meanwhile, Jeff remains underdeveloped as a person and is just another narrator for us to listen to. The mood is all over the place, and Spiderhead can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a paranoid thriller or a darkly comic reflection of today’s society. However, Hemsworth’s performance is quite entertaining. He portrays Steve as a big-headed tech bro with a God complex, which is very amusing.
But this is the second Kosinski film in a row where the emotional through line outshines his glitzy visuals. Jeff’s redemption arc is deeply moving, but – and this reflects on the film – it would’ve been even more powerful if his crimes were a bit more morally complex. But Spiderhead is content to wave at big concepts from afar without ever reaching out for a handshake.
Now playing on Cinema HD.
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Based on: “Escape From Spiderhead” by George Saunders
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett
Release dates: June 11, 2022 (Sydney), June 17, 2022 (United States)
Running time: 107 minutes
Country: United States