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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Under the Skin

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Directed: Jonathan Glazer 
Starring: Scarlett Johansson 
Running: 108 minutes

As silly as it may sound, Jonathan Glazer's take on modern alien-ism is so realistic it is truly frightening. A horror movie it is not, a sci-fi is questionable also; let's just say Under the Skin is a bag of everything, including drama and sentiment from a female alien seeking humanity in oneself. Giving very little away in its advertisement, judging by its James Cameron style poster, the opening scene is one of true remembrance, even if there is very little to show. Jonathan Glazer makes an alien assumption and what we are about to follow through-out this 100 minute slideshow of fascinating images.

A machine is seen slowly making its way toward what we eventually make out to be a human like eyeball, constructing our female protagonist to be (Scarlett Johansson). From there we witness a compelling concept of the hunter and the hunted through an aliens-eye-view. Prowling the wet streets of Scotland with a motive that is never fully explained, Laura is on the look out for vulnerable men with no direction other than the dark depths of what appears to be a concept of alien abduction. The murky human world is what captivates this movie to its full realism as hidden cameras are used to show the mundane streets featuring pedestrians at their typical. A transit van supplied by a mysterious biker is used to distract Laura from her manifestation; unrecognisable beneath her 80s retro hairstyle, Laura routinely distracts men at their most isolated, inviting them back to her abandoned house where they will meet their demise, revealing the most fascinating image and the "horror" of the movie. However Under the Skin feels purposely divided into a movie of two very different chapters, one that reveals sentiment in Laura with a dramatic outlook on what happens when the tables are turned on our leading star. It goes on to focus on a clever concept, one of much relevance in today's society. For me, Jonathan Glazer kills the darkish mood of its first 45 minutes to give us a sense of humanity and sympathy but again going back to what the movie offered at the beginning, making for a fantastic intro, a strange and not too comfortable middle and a brilliant ending.

Scarlett Johansson does very little here, yet it is the performance of her career no doubt. As strange as that may sound, that is exactly it; her cold and calculated expressions, her movement and her overall commitment to a film revealing more nudity than we would have expected, she is dedicated to her robust character from the get-go. Scarlett showcases a method side to her acting that the blockbusters of the past have not aloud her to do. Her robotic persona is scary and seductive making Under the skin spine tingling at times, yet heartfelt for both herself and her victims - she leads the line in fantastic fashion in this very rare one-women-show.

The chilling soundtrack helps set the atmospheric tone this movie thrives off from the beginning. Scarlett's on screen presence creates something so unnerving, you could cut the cinematic atmosphere with a blunt knife. The oblivious folks appearing in the backdrop of midnight Scotland gives this movie a sense of realism, with its stalker concept being of much relevance. Jonathan Glazer sheds some light on just how the average male can be vulnerable in the dead of the night; one scene shows just how far Laura will go to lure a victim to a misty grave.

Those looking to enjoy a movie of dialog will be very disappointed. Under the skin is an artistic outlook of hunter seeking its prey using a plethora of images; featuring deserted highways, wet and windy pavements and grizzly houses, while the sci-fi also comes into play in Laura's lair. Unfortunately the same concept is used toward the middle of the movie and the end, substituting gritty streets for the country woods and more. I for one found the images fascinating and self-explanatory.

Very little can be said in regards to how the movie plays out, and some people may be disappointed in that sense. It is probably the most realistic take on alien-ism I have seen in modern film so far. However so realistic that it may prove boring for some, and virtually unexplained. I for one tend to keep an open mind, therefore enjoying this visionary bag of mixed treats from Jonathan Glazer.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review as always Gerry. I found the film bold and extremely brave in its attempts to push the envelope of film as an art form. However, while I found many of its attempts fascinating and intriguing, I found other areas both ardours and repetitive.

    Here are my musings if you get time