Film review: “Colossal” (2017)

“Colossal” (2016)

Action/Thriller/Horror/Science Fiction

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Running Time: 110 minutes

Written and Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo

Featuring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Agam Darshi, and Tim Blake Nelson

Gloria:Keep it cool. These people are looking at us.”

Oscar:She’s the monster.”

Its been five years since Anne Hathaway received her Oscar for supporting actress  the for musical “Les Miserables” (2012), at the same time blowing everyone else off the screen, really announcing herself as a force to be reckoned with – if film-makers don’t have her as one of the top five actresses in Hollywood they need to have their heads examined. Since the Oscar Hathaway has appeared in a Sci-fi (“Interstellar” (2014)), a comedy (“The Intern” (2015)), an animated sequel (“Rio 2” (2014)), and a fantasy movie (“Alice Through the Looking Glass “ (2016)). She has proved over the course of her career to be one of the most versatile as well as bankable actresses around. She further proves her talent in her latest movie “Colossal” (2016), an independent comedy/drama about a giant monster and robot, as well as offering quite a few surprises along the way.

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an unemployed writer struggling with alcoholism. Her errant behavior prompts her frustrated boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) to break up with her and kick her out of their New York City apartment. Gloria ends up reuniting with her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who now runs his late father’s bar.

Working with Oscar at the bar does not help Gloria’s alcohol problem. After each shift she joins Oscar and his friends Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell) in their ritual of hanging out and drinking until morning. Gloria takes to sleeping it off on a bench near a children’s playground. At the same time, a giant reptilian kaiju appears in Seoul, South Korea, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Gradually, Gloria realizes that when she walks through the playground at exactly 8:05 in the morning, she causes the monster to manifest.Gloria reveals her secret to Oscar and his friends with even more complications – some you will not be prepared for.

This is a move and a half, that starts with a concept that is leftfield and then keeps going. The film is written and directed by Spanish Nacho Vigalondo, who directed the excellent genre film “Timecrimes” (2007) which played with time travel conventions as well as subverting the tropes involved in such films, giving the plot as well as the narrative a twist that was extremely satisfying. Here with “Colossal” he does something similar but with results that may not satisfy all audiences, especially those that have seen the amazing trailer for this movie. There has been a serious decision to subvert the expectations of the audience with the marketing for this film, which is a great idea, it seems to experiment to see how the public will react as well as seeing if this will be a success for future films. This is an interesting thing to do as it is not uncommon for a shot or two to be missing from a movie after the trailer plays – but not an entire storyline.

Tensions between the two main characters as well as Gloria’s boyfriend are extremely interesting particularly in terms of gender politics. Hathaway herself has been the aim of vitriol on the Internet – there is even a line of dialogue that pertains to this, veiled in conversation – which I do find odd, she is not the most polarizing actresses I can think of. Within the film things do take a violent turn, I wont say what but its fascinating – as well as being unnerving and quite scary. There are parallels in real life where women who possibly take a stand or are seen as threatening to men (by men of course) are routinely torn down, sad but true. Look at any male dominated section in society where women try and make in-roads and you will find gender specific hostility much like this movie. It truly is a rare film that can show us this with monsters and robots.

The film balances two main geographic areas, South Korea and the US, the juxtaposition between a large city, Seoul as well as the small town Gloria has come home to in the US are pivotal as the film unfolds. What is great is that these locales become instrumental within the narrative that will become clear in the denouement.

Nacho Vigalondo at his stage of his career knows the horror/science-fiction genre extremely well having spent most of his career surrounded by it. This is no bad thing and definitely not a knock on him or his obvious talents. It seems like this needed a special director to take hold of the plot through the what becomes a unique narrative to not only show us why things happen as well as the motivations of the characters. There is a slight hole in the plot at one point but what is cool is that the chapters talk about this hole- what fun.

This is a small budget (compared to other monster films) movie; it has parallels to the great micro budget movie “Monsters” (2010) directed by Gareth Edwards who coincidently directed the big budget version of “Godzilla” (2014). It is about a relationship or relationships that are under pressure from outsize forces. The other element they have in common are their female characters that have issues and are not defined by their gender. In “Colossal” Gloria is an alcoholic who is not defined by a man, who has agency to control her own destiny, in fact what she lacks is not strength but a purpose – something many people male or female can identify with.Like the monster for part of the film she stumbles though life destroying most things in her life until some self awareness takes place – just wonderful.

As I have said Anne Hathaway as the star of the film is fantastic but the supporting cast that rounds out the film is terrific as well. Particularly Jason Sudeikis who for the most part of his career has played a wise cracking sidekick, he has been pretty reliable as well as likeable in everything he has been in, here is playing someone quite different – believe it or not that can be quite jarring but actually fits within the film extremely well. The other two standouts are Dan Stevens as the boyfriends who dumps Gloria, he (as an actor) is starting to gain momentum in his career after the huge success of “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) as well as critical success from televisions “Legion” (2017). And then there is the always-reliable Tim Blake Nelson who like so many of his talented contemporaries has become the classic character actor, always reliable in big movies with big moments. It can never be underestimated how important great character actors can be in movies, think about any big budget or high profile films, then think about the actor that steals that movie even for short amounts of time.

Now some people may find this movie underwhelming after seeing the trailers but I loved this movie from the get go. All of the actors are perfectly suited to this small town drama with huge ambition as well as the fact that we get to see a larger world that impacts all the lives of those involved. I recommend this unique film highly, it oozes charm and heart, and while watching it you may be move to think of your childhood and where you have ended up.

“Colossal” is out now in New Zealand theatres.

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