- 1 hr 46 min
Spiderhead is a science fiction thriller film released in 2022, directed by Joseph Kosinski, famous for his work on movies such as "TRON: Legacy" and "Top Gun: Maverick". The film is based on a short story titled "Escape from Spiderhead" by George Saunders, as it was originally published in The New Yorker magazine. The screenplay adaptation was penned by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, known for their collaborative work on the "Deadpool" films and "Zombieland."
Set in the near future, Spiderhead centers on an experimental prison program housed within a state-of-the-art facility called Spiderhead Penitentiary. Unlike conventional prisons, Spiderhead lacks the traditional bars, cell blocks, or orange jumpsuits. Instead, inmates enjoy relative freedom and comfort within the facility, which could be mistaken for an avant-garde corporate campus or a research institute. The inmates volunteer for experimental drug trials in exchange for reduced sentences and an environment that respects their humanity.
The narrative follows two central characters: Jeff, portrayed by Miles Teller, an inmate grappling with his past while trying to figure out his place within the confines of Spiderhead, and Lizzy, played by Jurnee Smollett, a fellow inmate whose strength and mystery attract Jeff's attention and intrigue.
Chris Hemsworth takes on a different type of role from his iconic portrayals in action-hero franchises, playing Steve Abnesti, the charismatic and innovative overseer of the Spiderhead facility. Abnesti has a revolutionary vision for the future of criminal rehabilitation, which he pursues with a mix of charm and unsettling determination. He is a thought-provoking antagonist, walking the line between benevolence and moral ambiguity.
The heart of Spiderhead's plot revolves around Abnesti's groundbreaking work with emotion-altering drugs. These substances, administered through surgically attached devices, can manipulate the inmates' emotions to vivid extremes. The drugs can induce love, joy, verbal acuity, or even abject fear with the gentle press of a touchscreen controlled by the researchers. These substances are given experimentally named identifiers that reflect their intended effects, and the prisoners participating in the studies are subjected to varying doses and combinations under the guise of scientific progress.
However, as the story unfolds, the ethical implications of Abnesti's experiments become increasingly concerning. The film delves into philosophical questions about free will, consent, and the human desire for redemption and connection. The experimental drugs are a profound narrative tool that exposes the inner workings and vulnerabilities of the characters, peeling back the layers of their experiences and motives.
Jeff's journey is particularly gripping as he battles internal demons and memories from his past life while navigating the bizarre and manipulative world of Spiderhead. His natural skepticism and emerging doubts about the facility’s true intentions are exacerbated by his growing feelings for Lizzy and his encounters with other inmates, leading to a complex emotional and psychological struggle.
The atmosphere of the Spiderhead facility itself is a character in its own right, with its clean and clinical aesthetic hiding a more sinister and manipulative underbelly. The cinematography and design play a pivotal role in setting the tone for the film, with bright, open spaces juxtaposed against the emotional turmoil and tension that brews among the characters.
Under Kosinski's direction, Spiderhead combines elements of action, suspense, and drama. The film pays particular attention to character development and the moral complexities of high-concept scientific endeavors. The production design, soundtrack, and editing collaborate to create a sleek, unsettling mood that draws viewers into the story’s provocative premise and keeps them guessing about the characters' fates.
The themes prevalent in Spiderhead resonate with contemporary societal topics, including the ethics of pharmaceutical research, penal reform, and the essence of consent. As the lines between voluntary participation and coercion blur, the film boldly challenges the audience to consider the value of emotion and the potential consequences of controlling it through artificial means.
Spiderhead received a mixed critical reception upon its release, with praise for the cast’s performances and the film’s ambitious thematic exploration, alongside criticism for its handling of the source material's depth and narrative cohesion. Nonetheless, it stands as a thought-provoking piece of science fiction that confronts viewers with unsettling questions about humanity's continuous quest for control and the innate complexities of the human psyche.
Spiderhead is a 2022 science fiction movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 46 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 5.5 and a MetaScore of 54.