Sunday, May 11, 2014

Under The Skin review

If Eraserhead-era David Lynch time traveled to today and directed a movie about aliens, I imagine it would look somewhat like Under The Skin. Except it probably wouldn't be as good as the actual movie is.
In old cheesy sci-fi flicks, and even in some more recent movies, aliens are always humanoid. They may have purple skin or weird space suits, but they always resemble humans to a fault. Whether in appearance, language, or technology, it seems science fiction writers can't get away from humanity when creating an alien race. Under The Skin doesn't have this problem. The extraterrestrial in Under The Skin takes the form of a Scarlett Johansson-looking Scot, but underneath it's something completely different. Something alien to our world. With thoughts, needs, and desires completely different than that of any human. I think it's the fact that this movie addresses how strange and alien actually aliens would be that makes it so interesting. It also addresses how strange and alien our world and culture would look to an outsider. Director Jonathan Glazer and his leading lady, Scarlett Johansson, portray these factors with the utmost skill and strangeness. Under The Skin is technically about an alien on Earth taking men and harvesting them for some unknown purpose. But that's not really important. The film is really about fear, confusion, and humanity itself. Big themes, I know. But this movie isn't afraid of big themes. What it really embraces are the big questions. The main protagonist here, Scarlett Johansson's alien character, spends a decent chunk of the film driving around Scotland to pick up men and then bring them back to her apartment where they're never seen again. When she first meets a guy, she always asks if he's alone. Whether he has a family, if he's traveling with anyone, does he have any friends. She wants to take people that won't cause a ruckus if they drop off the face of the Earth one day. She asks if they're alone. In life maybe they are, but not in the universe. When the movie starts out, Johansson has all the power. These men she finds are practically drooling at her to the point where they die, blinded by her hypnotic beauty. As the film progresses, she starts to lose this power. You can see her character scared and confused by people and Earth in general. At one point she trips in the street and passers-by rush to help her, the look of confusion is incredibly telling of her character. Scarlett Johansson barely speaks at all in the movie, but she deserves an Oscar simply for the way she communicates through her face. Whether she's utterly emotionless, or horribly frightened and confused, Johansson gives a marvelous performance. This may sound ridiculous, but I think it's the most honest portrayal of an alien that's ever been captured on film. Aliens probably wouldn't be all-knowing and confident. They're like snakes: dangerous, but more scared of us than we are of them. Things we take for granted like eating and even just regular human interaction become odd and even scary to an alien. Johansson embodies this horrified confusion so, so well The person involved with this movie I have to applaud most is writer and director Jonathan Glazer. His direction here is breathtaking. Every shot is clear and beautiful, haunting and meaningful. The imagery here is flawless. Just the shots of the Scottish countryside are awe-inspiring. The way he holds the seemingly meaningless shots like a hand tapping to music or an ant crawling, make those shots seem as important as the entire movie. And in some ways, they are. Glazer uses single shots to paint an entire picture and deliver so much emotion and information. He doesn't need dialogue. The last scene has been burned into my mind since I watched this last night, and that's saying something about the power of cinema. Many people have deemed this film as Kubrickian. I'm a huge Stanley Kubrick fan myself, but I don't really see a connection. I think people were trying to connect this and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is understandable but wrong. They're two great films, but two completely different films. The only thing Kubrick-esque about Under The Skin is it's pacing. In most of his movies like Barry Lyndon and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick has this very slow, yet very riveting and deliberate pacing. Glazer uses a similar technique here. When watching this, I was in between deeply enthralled and utterly bored. And I mean that in the best possible way. Nothing is really happening, yet it feels like something profound and horrific will happen soon. I literally was on the edge of my seat most of the movie. If anything, Under The Skin is completely original. I have never seen a movie, technically and narrative-wise, like Under The Skin. It's completely it's own. One more thing. This film is an all around sensory experience, and I highly recommend you see it in the theater while you can. It's not just visuals. The soundtrack is incredibly eerie and it's use of sound in general is spectacular. Overall it's a very well-made movie. It marries it's sounds and images in such an amazing way, that it all permeates your soul. That sounds very pretentious and a little ridiculous but it's 100% true. In a world of reboots and The Amazing Spider Man 2, maybe that's just what we need. This film is in no way for everyone. Some may find it too weird. Some may find it boring. I found it riveting, original, and even a little prophetic. I believe that's enough to deem this a great movie. Or at least one we should be thinking and talking about. I give Under The Skin 4.8 out of 5 stars. Now stop reading my review and go see the movie! Remember to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.          

1 comment:

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