FILM REVIEW: Under the Skin
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Paul Brannigan, Krystof Hádek, Michael Moreland, Jessica Mance, Scott Dymond, Steve Keys, Jeremy McWilliams
For anyone who turned up to ‘Under the Skin’ on the basis that they’d heard
of a new film out with Scarlett Johanssen playing a sexy alien (come on now, don’t be shy…), then more than likely this film will have got you about as hot under the collar as the last time you watched Predator… with your dad.
Yes, Johanssen as ever is a pretty devastatingly attractive as she skulks the streets of Glasgow as an extraterrestrial being cloaked by a becoming brunette bob, fur-coat and tight jeans. Yet in this case her “knock-em-dead” looks couldn’t be a more fitting description as a number of randy hapless oafs are enraptured by a one night, and last night, stand with the femme fatale and things get far messier in ways they could never have imagined (and no, not in that way).
Whilst the Hollywood A-lister’s casting has innevitably drawn some commercial interest to the film in a (perhaps) empowering female role, despite drawing a lot of attention, the ‘honey-trap from hell’ story line is but only a small part of the film. In fact, this film is so much more; an alien film which searches the soul, instinct and behaviour of humanity through the eyes of a being that the viewer watches from its very creation and beyond as it evolves and matures.
Ultimately, the plot (based on the novel by Michael Faber) is only as good as its direction and the direction here is visionary. Sparse dialogue emphasises a sense of isolation throughout the film, whereas it’s sublime interweaving of choreographed, amateur/freeform filming (of unsuspecting Glaswegians) and some liquid special effects provide breath-taking moments throughout. Cold and lonely, rural Scotland depicted as a Hoth-like terrain also proves to be the perfect world for the viewer to escape in with the protagonist during some truly unforgettable scenes of the savage ice and wind-torn land tamed beautifully by Jonathan Glazer (a relative newbie to the directors seat).
Capturing the graceful and lonely cinematic glide of 2001: A Space Odyssey and with the brain-cell popping esotericism of The Man Who Fell to Earth, this is as thoughtful, unearthly and spell-binding piece of science fiction as you are likely to have seen in years.