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Film Review: ‘Spiderhead’ Injects Dark Comedy to a Science Fiction Thriller

Netflix
Netflix

Coming hot on the tail of Top Gun: Maverick, Netflix’s Spiderhead is likely to have some extra attention. After all, not only is director Joseph Kosinski at the helm here, along with some of his below the line crew, but Miles Teller is also atop the cast. So, while comparisons are inevitable, they aren’t far. Don’t stack them against each other, since this is a smaller, more genre-centric work. However, the extra spotlight isn’t a bad thing, as it highlights how surprisingly funny this science fiction thriller actually is. Coming to Netflix this weekend, it’s a very smooth watch that goes down easy. Just don’t expect anything too groundbreaking.

Spiderhead is funnier than you’re expecting, especially considering how dark the sci-fi premise actually is. The often tension breaking humor serves a solid purpose, making things go down rather easily. It never gets too silly for there to be stakes, but things never become too bleak for there to be enjoyment. It’s a nice bit of alchemy that makes for something broadly entertaining.

Netflix

Adapting a short story, this film takes place in the near future, where a new form of incarceration is available. Special inmates can be selected for this program, where you’re offered a large degree of comfort and freedom. The catch? Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) is running the program and having then “volunteer” to be subjected to medical experiments. Essentially, Steve has developed various formulas you can be shot up with, each of which controls your emotions. One compound may make you incredibly verbose, while another can make two people uncontrollably lusty. There’s ones that make everything funny, horrifying, and so on. For Jeff (Teller), it’s a comfy but unfulfilling experience, even with Steve favoring him and considering them almost friends. The former is somewhat brooding, while the latter is almost too friendly and positive.

As the experiments grow in intensity, especially centering on if one chemical can generate actual feelings of love, Jeff becomes suspicious of Steve. In particular, a rather dangerous compound he’s experienced is being potentially used on Lizzie (Jurnee Smollett), who Jeff has developed feelings for. The more he butts up against Steve, the more he wonders what’s actually going on in this secluded prison? When he finds out, it becomes a determination to get out, before it potentially is too late.

Netflix

Chris Hemsworth is having the time of his life here. He leans into the bigness of the role, clearly having a blast. Jurnee Smollett and Miles Teller (essentially our lead) play things more standard issue, but Hemsworth is big enough for everyone. He’s unquestionably the highlight. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Tess Haubrich, Nathan Jones, Angie Milliken, Mark Paguio, and more. That being said, if you’re seeing this, you’re seeing this for Hemsworth.

Director Joseph Kosinski, alongside writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, rightly looked to the black comedy in this otherwise bleak premise. Kosinski isn’t operating with the same visual flair as his other 2022 release, so Reese and Wernick’s personality injected here is optimal. They keep things from ever feeling too generic. It’s not Deadpool or Zombieland level of comedy, but this is a very funny flick.

Spiderhead isn’t Top Gun: Maverick, but don’t go in expecting it to be. As long as you keep that in mind, it’s a fair bet that this is at least going to be a mild amount of fun. Especially if you like genre fare, this will scratch an itch. As you peruse Netflix this weekend, it certainly has an appeal to it. Give it a shot and see what you think!

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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