(Director Joseph Kosinski) (Netflix, 2022)
Spiderhead, a 107 minute TV movie from a short story by George Saunders (see our review of Lincoln in the Bardo here) is a bit too long. About 100 minutes too long. Saunders kept the story short for a reason.
It starts interestingly enough and maintains the tone of a Black Mirror episode throughout, (not a good Black Mirror episode though. Not like San [sob] Junipero [sob]). Steve Abnesti (A Hemsworth) is the governor (sort-of) of an island prison facility called “Spiderhead” (the name is not explained in the film and don’t bother Googling it, it doesn’t really matter). Prisoners who agree to take part in experimental drug trials can be transferred to Spiderhead where, in exchange for guinea pig status, they live in comfortable surroundings. Jeff (Miles Teller) who accidentally killed a mate when he drove drunk (so that he’s relatable) is in a relationship with Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett, sister of Jussie!). Lizzy’s crime has to be a doozy for the plot to work, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. The story suffers from the writers’ constant attempts to make the audience like Jeff and Lizzy. Furthermore, Jeff seems to have free run of Abnesti’s quarters and the experiment station itself.
Whichever of the many identical Hemsworths this is, he gives the spider who administers the drugs and plays with peoples’ lives the usual smug Hemsworth treatment. He even refers to himself as one of the ‘beautiful people’. His only interesting moment is when he dances to Roxy Music’s More Than This. It does add depth to the character and, if you like Hemsworths, you’ll love it, (whichever Hemsworth it is). Indeed, the soundtrack is pleasing, and fitting.
Abnesti’s small and earnest assistant Verlaine (Mark Paguio) gives us enough concerned looks to ensure that we know that something’s wrong. The big reveal is no surprise, and doesn’t even make sense. The action scenes are silly. The sex scenes are gratuitous and cringeworthy. It is reported that the Hemsworth who played Abnesti said that there was a “complexity to the character unlike anything I’d done before“. This is frightening. As is the amount of mascara he allows to be ladled onto the eyelashes of his blue, blue eyes. We recommend that this Hemsworth immediately watch Paul Newman in The Hustler and in Hud. Watch and learn.