Time: 106 Minutes
Chris Hemsworth as Steve Abnesti
Miles Teller as Jeff
Jurnee Smollett as Lizzy
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Two inmates form a connection while grappling with their pasts in a state-of-the-art penitentiary run by a brilliant visionary who experiments on his subjects with mind-altering drugs.
Spiderhead didn’t receive the best reception when it released on Netflix, but I was curious to check it out. The premise and trailer did look interesting, most of all however is the fact that Joseph Kosinski helmed it, and earlier he delivered the especially great Top Gun: Maverick this year. So I went into it open minded and came out pleasantly surprised, even if it could’ve been a lot better.
First of all, I liked the idea of this dystopian sci-fi thriller premise which definitely had potential, with it focussing on a prison with convicts having mind altering drugs tested on them. Spiderhead is a slow burner and doesn’t move quickly, but it was intriguing enough to me; there was always something that had me interested in seeing how everything would play out, and it was playing. Also, I liked that it was goofier and weirder than expected, it gave the movie an off kilter personality. That being said, the writing is the weakest part of the movie. For all its ideas and potential, it could’ve been so much more. It felt like the script was undeveloped and needed a lot more fleshing out. It definitely plays around with some thought provoking ideas, but doesn’t do much with them. It feels like it could’ve been made as an hour long Black Mirror episode, or feature length if there were a few more rewrites. The characters are well acted, however they aren’t that interesting outside of maybe Chris Hemsworth’s character. At a certain point form the third act to the ending, it just really falls off with no effective thrills. It seems to give up on taking any of its themes anywhere interesting and rushes towards a very predictable and safe climax.
The acting is one of the best parts of the movie. Miles Teller delivers some really good work in his second collaboration with Joseph Kosinski this year, here playing the protagonist. The rest of the cast are also solid including Jurnee Smollett, although her character is unfortunately underutilised despite playing a notable part in the movie. However out of all of them, Chris Hemsworth is the standout in a rare villain role; his natural charisma is utilised incredibly well, and the movie lights up whenever he appears on screen. This is one of his best performances, and between this and Bad Times at the El Royale, I would like to see Hemsworth more in these types of different roles because he’s great at it.
Joseph Kosinski’s last sci-fi movie was 9 years ago with Oblivion, so it was nice to see him to return to the genre with Spiderhead. Overall his direction is very solid. The cinematography is strong, and the production design works with the futuristic interiors, as well as the remote island that it takes place on. The sound design is effective too, its strong on a technical level. The score from Joseph Trapanese adds a lot to the movie, and the soundtrack on the whole really adds personality to the tone of the movie.
Spiderhead isn’t one of Joseph Kosinski’s best, in fact its probably his worst movie yet. That being said, there’s a lot that works here and I probably like it more than most people. The actors are really good in their parts, especially Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth, and Kosinski’s direction is solid on the whole. There’s even some tense and enjoyable moments throughout, and I like some of the ideas here. It’s just that the story and script needed a lot more fleshing out to really work, and feels subpar when compared to the other much better sci-fi movies that it is taking from. Still, I’m glad that I watched it.