2 out of 5 stars
Joseph Kosinski is having quite a year with the eventual release of Top Gun: Maverick. He could finally share the film with the world that so many fans were waiting to see. His movie has become one of the best and biggest films of the year. While most might not realise that he has another film that came out weeks later on Netflix, is there a reason there was minimal fanfare for his second film of the year?
Filmed exclusively in Australia in 2020, the story is staged at the fictitious state-of-the-art penitentiary, Spiderhead. Prisoners are given certain freedoms since they are the test subjects of experimental mood-altering medications. As human guinea pigs, they are promised a reduced sentence and are rewarded with certain privileges during their incarceration. Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) oversees the facility and administers the tests on his subjects that lead to various emotional experiences and trauma for each prisoner.
One inmate named Jeff (Miles Teller) becomes a primary candidate for the program and begins to question the ethical nature of Abnesti’s work. Especially when he begins to fall for Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) who is a fellow resident of the prison. Jeff has to decide how he can expose what is going on at the facility without falling on Steve’s bad side. As things progress in the study of N-40, the tests become more intense and life-threatening for all involved which leads Jeff to take drastic measures to escape.
The screenwriters of Deadpool, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have developed a premise that is all too familiar. Yet, it is wrapped into a pretty package with a cleverly handsome lead that makes everything seem above board in the original setup. As Chris Hemsworth does all he can to shed his Thor image. He shows his ability to move from charismatic pharmaceutical clinician to comedic narcissist, then finishing as a driven sociopath. All components he does manage to play out convincingly, except he never is fully convincing as the villain. This actor is stuck in a hero’s body and will have to do more to be believable as anything less than a leading man.
Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett are marvelous in their roles and take on the range of emotions that the test put them through. Still, something must have happened as they moved towards the third act. Everything was progressing in a fascinatingly twisted manner, but then it all became rather conventional and predictable. Since the facility is loaded with numerous characters, Joseph Kosinski does not do enough to develop each of them to know why they are suddenly introduced in the final act. Then there is that bizarre and unbelievable conclusion with whispers of production that ran out of ideas, time or money.
Spiderhead does have all of the components to be a compelling psychological thriller. Maybe it was too clever for its own good or everyone started taking the mind-altering drugs themselves. Whatever the excuse for this less-than-inspired conclusion was, it caused this whole production to go from inspired to forgettable.
REEL DIALOGUE: How can we find redemption?
Redemption: an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. Deliverance from sin; salvation.
The idea of redemption runs throughout this film. Each prisoner has reasons for being part of the program; all think they have no means of forgiveness for their past.
These are some of life's basic needs. Acceptance, forgiveness and redemption. Traveling through life, most of us come to the point of seeking redemption for various things that we have done. Trying to find a means of rectifying the wrongs we have done to people, society or God. This is a concept that can be found at the heart of the Bible's message. Jesus' life and death provide a particular type of redemption that is readily available to anyone willing to accept it.
This brings about two questions: Are you seeking redemption in your life and have you considered Jesus as the answer?
Verses on the topic of redemption: Psalm 111:9, John 3:16, Romans 3:24-26, Ephesians 1:7