Movie Review: Spiderhead (Kosinski, 2022)

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Movie: Spiderhead

Production Companies: Netflix, Grand Electric, The New Yorker Studios, Conde Nast Entertainment (Uncredited), Screen Arcade (Uncredited), Reese Wernick Productions (Uncredited)

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Producers: Eric Newman, Chris Hemsworth, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Agnes Chu, Geneva Wasserman, Tommy Harper, Jeremy Steckler

Scriptwriters: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick 

Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett

Release Date: June 17th 2022 (US)

Running Time: 107 minutes 

Certificate: 15

Introduction

What happens when you combine an interesting short story with the writers behind Deadpool? You get a perfectly alright Netflix film. Despite an interesting premise and good performances from Hemsworth and Teller, Spiderhead never really felt like it hit the lofty heights it could have thanks to a few gigantic leaps in logic and suspension of disbelief. Oh, and the small detail of Chris Hemsworth’s accent which is weirdly off-putting at points. Oh, SPOILER warning in place for the review. So, without further ado here is my review of the film.

Synopsis 

As mentioned above, Spiderhead is an adaptation of a book: Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders. The film Spiderhead follows prisoners Jeff (Teller) and Lizzy (Smollett) who are serving their sentences in a luxury prison called Spiderhead. In this prison, they are free to move around, have luxury cells and all of this is in exchange for testing drugs for a scientist: Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth) and his assistant Mark. Slowly but surely, Jeff begins to see the sinister side of the drugs that Abnesti is using them to test. Also the potential consequences for the world if he ever releases them into the world. As mentioned above, the cast features Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett amongst others. So, now let’s get into the analysis portion of the review now.

Analysis 

Chris Hemsworth’s Performance in Spiderhead 

To begin my analysis of Spiderhead, I’m going to discuss Chris Hemsworth’s performance as the mysterious head of Abnesti Pharmaceuticals: Steve Abnesti. To get one of my obvious criticisms of Hemsworth’s performance out of the way early, let’s talk about his accent. Now, say what you want about his accent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but at least they just have him use his natural Aussie accent. However in Spiderhead, he seems to be using a weird combination of his Aussie accent, an American accent and a slightly British accent.

Either way, Hemsworth’s accent can often detract from highly emotional scenes, like when Steve and Jeff are talking about the impact of Darkenfloxx (one of Abnesti’s drugs). What should be an emotive, intense scene becomes unintentionally funny due to the distracting nature of the accent. But besides the accent, Hemsworth puts in a solid enough performance as Abnesti. This performance is equally sinister and weird at points. The audience see this when Steve and Jeff get high and start laughing about how they both ended up in Spiderhead Penitentiary. 

Soundtrack and Score in Spiderhead 

Continuing my analysis of Spiderhead, I’m now going to discuss one of the high points of the film: the soundtrack. This refers to both the score and the pop songs used. In regards to Spiderhead’s score, the composer was Joseph Trapanese who had worked with Kosinski before on Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. Overall, Spiderhead’s score is pretty decent with a blend of upbeat synth (which works alongside the pop songs) and sci-fi/horror. The second aspect of the score is again demonstrated by the scene where Heather kills herself. The swelling synth sounds of the score really emphasise how dangerous the effects of Darkenfloxx really are.

Now in regards to the pop songs selected, they really become a regular highlight of the film. Why is this the case? Well, take the ending for example. Here, Jeff finally fights back against Steve and makes an escape with Lizzie. And what song is playing in the background? It’s She Blinded Me with Science. Not only is this a very good song but it obviously makes fun of Abnesti and his aims. Overall, a very subtle joke from the filmmaker here….

Miles Teller’s Performance in Spiderhead 

To conclude my analysis of Spiderhead, I’m going to talk about Miles Teller’s performance as Jeff. Now, while the script does fail characters at times, Teller does give a pretty good performance, similar to Hemsworth. The audience see this through Jeff’s interactions with both Steve and Lizzy. Take the scene of Lizzy having Darkenfloxx injected into her system by Steve. Here, Teller is making you believe that Jeff really does care for Lizzy…even if the script isn’t the greatest in terms of writing and dialogue.

In addition, the scene of Jeff and Lizzy confessing how they got sent to Spiderhead. Again, despite the script’s limitations Teller adds some much needed emotional depth to Jeff and his burgeoning relationship with Lizzie. So, while Teller’s performance as Jeff is slightly limited by what the script gives him, overall Teller puts in a solid enough performance for what the film requires. Sort of sums the film up to be honest…

Summary

To summarise Spiderhead, this is a fine enough film which doesn’t quite hit the heights it could have thanks to a lacklustre at points script. This hampers some decent performances by Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth as well as a fun and interesting sci-fi concept which never really gets explored enough to justify the film’s runtime of 107 minutes.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10 – Above Average

Target Audience: 15+

Content Warning: Moderate Sex and Nudity, Moderate Violence and Gore, Moderate Profanity, Moderate Frightening and intense scenes

Recommendation: No