Based on the short story, Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders, Spiderhead is a futuristic sci-fi thriller which has just landed on Netflix. The movie is available to stream from today, and follows the story of a prisoner, who volunteers for an experiment which utilises mind-altering drugs.
In the movie Jeff is an inmate at Spiderhead Penitentiary and Research Centre. Unlike regular prisons, Spiderhead is an advance facility, where prisoners are given various freedoms and luxuries, in exchange for their involvement in a long-running study.
Every day, Jeff takes part in the study, which sees his thoughts and feelings influenced through controlled substances. While under the influence, Jeff is monitored to test his reactions to certain situations, with every moment recorded by Spiderhead’s chief operative, Steve Abnesti.
At first, Jeff is happy to take part in the study, believing this is a better alternative to a regular prison. However, over time, Jeff becomes suspicious of Abnesti’s motives, and starts to question the choices he is making.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Spiderhead stars Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, and Jurnee Smollett. The movie is a slow-burning tale, which boasts an interesting premise, as well as a strong cast, and a great soundtrack.
However, while this film has plenty of positives and for the most part proves to be an OK watch, Spiderhead is nothing extraordinary. With so much going for it, Spiderhead should be more appealing than it is, leading to a little disappointment when all is said and done.
It’s not a bad movie, it just feels like it should be a bit better. The film is completely watchable, and at times engrossing, but it never quite comes together, resulting in a slightly underwhelming experience.
I’ll focus on the positives first, because Spiderhead does have quite a few, beginning with director Joseph Kosinski. Kosinski has previously delivered the visually stunning Tron: Legacy (2010), as well as this summer’s smash-hit blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick, and his skills behind the camera are evident in this picture too.
The director brings a certain confidence and flair to this movie. This is very much a small-scale piece, which is far removed from his Tron and Top Gun pictures, but it is clear the film is put together by a director who has a vision and an eye for detail.
Kosinski also knows how to get the best out of his actors, with Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller in particular delivering strong performances. The actors command the screen throughout the picture, as Jeff and Abnesti respectively, and deliver everything they are asked to do and more.
Spiderhead also benefits from a delightful soundtrack, which combines an emotive score from composer Joseph Trapanese with some classic pop tracks from yesteryear. The jukebox of tunes suits the overall tone and feel of the movie, and is another feather in Spiderhead’s cap.
So, with all that good stuff, what’s the problem then? Well, that would be the story.
Spiderhead’s story never feels fully fleshed out or as interesting and imaginative as it wants to be. It takes a while to build up its premise, leading the audience to think various mind-melting twists and turns are on the horizon, but sadly this is far from true.
The film plays out very much as expected. Abnesti is exactly the type of character you assume he will be, and the same goes for Jeff.
There are a couple of revelations in the picture, but none of them are shocking or exciting. The story doesn’t twist so much as just mildly pivots from one beat to another, and this results in a tale which feels kind of one-note throughout.
The whole thing also wraps up far too quickly. After taking a considerable amount of time to build up its premise, Spiderhead runs out of steam and suddenly seems to sprint toward the finish line.
What doesn’t help is the feeling that this could have been something far more interesting, had there been a little more to the narrative. The components for a great film are all here, they just lack a strong enough tale to peg them on.
So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. Spiderhead has all the pieces, and for the most part knows what to do with them, but it falls down in a very key area.
As previously noted, the film is still watchable irrespective of this, so don’t think it is a dud. Just don’t expect to feel entirely satisfied with what’s on offer.
Spiderhead is a ‘one-watch-and-done’ kind of picture. Fine to stream over the weekend, but certainly not one to return to or care too much about.
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