Spiderhead sure is an odd name for the movie and when you see it, that doesn’t make it any less confusing.
A story about an evil pharmaceutical company running dangerous experiments on people against their will? This is a film that was written before everything in the world was brought to you by Pfizer.
Considering the massive box office success of Top Gun Maverick, there are a lot of people who want to see if Director Joseph Kosinski has yet another hit film on his hands. Kosinski has gotten used to working with actor Miles Teller over the last few years working on Maverick and Only The Brave. The duo comes together again for the latest project on the streaming platform Netflix.
Spiderhead is a story about an island compound run by Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), the leader of an experimental prisoner program. In exchange for comfortable living and reduced sentences, inmates like Jeff (Miles Teller) undergo a series of experimental drug treatments with side effects ranging from extreme terror to overt arousal.
The inmates agree to be guinea pigs for the company as a trade-off to avoid time at the state penitentiary. One day, Steve asks Jeff to experiment with a drug called “Darkenfloxx”, which induces extreme physical and psychological pain. After experiencing the drug firsthand, Jeff is reluctant to force anyone else to do the same but Steve insists that Jeff move forward with the experience. It is here where Jeff decides to dig into the true intentions of the group that Steve works for which leads to a shocking discovery.
Chris Hemsworth is a guy who I root for outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in Spiderhead he plays a smarmy villain in charge of an ethically questionable program that believes in suffering for the greater good. Hemsworth plays a great representation of a larger corporation that will commit crimes and still see himself as the hero.
Miles Teller gets a lot of crap for his personal life but here he once again delivers a solid performance. Teller plays a man guilt-ridden over a drunk car crash that landed him in jail and becomes the preferred lab rat of Steve. Jurnee Smollett is in the movie as Lizzy and her character is the least developed due to the lack of focus on her in the story.
This is where we get to the holes in the story. The film sets up a premise that allows more details to be explained as the story moves on but as the audiences get those details, the film begins to unravel. The more we learn, the more we see that Steve is a character with a drive to play God but by doing so the film drops the ball on a much bigger conspiracy at play. The film does have some nice-looking set pieces and the cinematography is aesthetically pleasing for a film on a Netflix budget.
The movie was filmed during COVID there is a lot of noticeable social distancing for a film shot in the strict COVID location of Australia. There are a few humorous spots and setups such as a running gag with a poop finger and Miler Teller being stuck in an uncomfortable position with a much larger inmate.
For Joseph Kosinski, it is a step back from his theatrical releases as Spiderhead dropped the ball in the 3rd act by going in a cliché direction with their story. But for a streaming movie, it still is still an entertaining movie worthy of a watch. A good film with the potential of being so much better.