Requiem for a bide
In the near future, some prisoners, like Jeff (Miles Teller), are sent to the laboratory of Dr. Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth). Thanks to a small console on the back of the back, experimental drugs are tested on these human guinea pigs. Their particularity? Control emotions, whether it’s laughter, sexual desire or even the urge to talk.
Adapted from a short story by George Saunders, Spiderhead possesses an openly Orwellian dimension, which shows from its first minutes that the prisoners consent to these tests which monopolize their body and their spirit. Behind the fantasy of a standardized society, the film plays on a form of schizophrenia, that of a humanity that wants to transcend itself, while seeking to resist the mutation of its own nature.
The cruise has fun
Paradoxically, the feature film reflects its subject. To be even more precise, there are two films in Spiderhead. On the one hand, that of a poor scenario, which we owe to the duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Dead Pool, 6 Underground, zombieland). On the other, that of an inspired staging, even cut out for Joseph Kosinski.
In its own way, it’s hard not to see in the latest Netflix production a return to a famous cinephile debate: is it better to see a bad script saved by an incredible realization, or a lamentable staging serving a masterful scenario? The specificity of cinema would tend to choose the first option, but it is clear that this does not forgive everything.
We would like to avoid Thorpiller the film
In the case of SpiderheadReese and Wernick perpetuate their writing less pseudo post-modern than cynical, always in search of two or three narrative pirouettes and some shock effects to compensate for the emptiness of the open doors that they push in like cops on a muscular search. Faced with these humans treated like lab rats, the film continues its adventures without ever exploiting the full potential of its concept. Even Chris Hemsworth, yet a perfect choice in Steve Jobs / startupper too clean on him, triggers a derailment in his performance far too telephoned to seem chilling.
To tell the truth, the character of Abnesti, a sort of narcissistic pervert who only half assumes the inhumanity of his perverse games, represents all the impossibility of the film to build a real moral ambiguity, yet at the heart of its postulate. Instead, the viewer must stuff themselves with a lot of needy dialogue about free will, the innate monstrosity of human beings and their thirst for self-destruction, while being careful to stay on a superficial level so as not to disturb them. .
I’m looking at Spiderhead for the script. The scenario :
And in the middle flows a filmmaker
But as said before, there is another movie in Spiderhead, for once much more engaging. As a former architect and designer, Joseph Kosinski has since proven Tron: Legacy and oblivion that he has a special eye for designing cinema spaces. Here, the basic-looking seaside center for a James Bond villain sports suites of harmonious, breaking lines, seeking a sense of geometry and symmetry in licked compositions.
In this way, the filmmaker regularly manages to to give a subtlety to a scenario that is devoid of it through the image. For example, the center of Spiderhead is presented as a sort of paradise island, where prisoners can freely access all the rooms of the building. While Abnesti emphasizes this specificity of place, Kosinski spends his time contradicting it with his lines of flight, which enclose his characters both in gigantic salons and in their own tormented psyches.
A feng shui movie
But above all, Kosinski pays particular attention to the drug testing sessions, where the teams face an immaculate room covered with tinted glass, like a distorting mirror of a humanity confronted with its impulses and its demons, while the demiurge rubs his hands. In those moments, when Kosinski’s staging centralizes the gaze of the bodies present through his management of the decor, Spiderhead manages to create a real sense of unease, especially during his mid-point pivot.
Unfortunately, it is also from there that the film gets lost, and triggers a series of revelations that never go to the end of their logic, including in a last act finally very wise. The disappointment is all the greater when one perceives the impulses of inspiration of its director, and the precision of its cutting.
The kind of plan made in Kosinski
After all, since tron 2Kosinski does nothing but portray characters stuck in a world from which they seek to escape, be it the Grid or the flaming forests of line of fire. Whereas Top Gun: Maverick has fun with the horizon line as a frontier of all possibilities that must be reversed, deformed and exceeded aboard a fighter plane, Spiderhead it bursts into a thousand pieces within this building where the uncertain future of the characters is constantly confronted with their traumatic past.
The director constructs his images on the symbolic barriers that his heroes create between themselves and a potential happiness that they feel they do not deserve. All of Joseph Kosinski’s cinema could be summed up in this idea: you have to reconstitute the line, like an Ariadne’s thread that indicates the direction to take. Spiderhead pushes this concept to its limits, and makes it a cool and fascinating design object. Too bad it’s so hollow.
Spiderhead is available on Netflix since June 17, 2022