"You don't remember anything from last night, huh?"
"I got really melodramatic didn't I?"
After being left by her boyfriend and moving back home to figure her life out, a struggling alcoholic wakes up to find a giant monster has attacked downtown Seoul. As the days progress and the strange attacks continue she begins to find that she and the creature have a psychic connection of some sort.
To call the latest film from writer/director Nacho Vigalondo original almost feels like an understatement. While kaiju films seem to be having a bit of resurgence lately, I am fairly confident in saying you’ve never seen one quite like this. The monster of the piece isn’t the giant lizard creature terrorizing Korea, but rather the human characters that populate the film, reacting to the event as they unfold. The movie works as a wonderful character deconstruction, giving the audience an unflinching look into the lives of addicted, dependent, over-powering and broken people all through the off kilter and often hilarious guise of a monster movie.
As the films protagonist, Gloria, Anne Hathaway delivers a subtly subdued performance, never going over the top with the wild antics of her character but rather playing the alcoholism as realistic as possible. She’s a conflicted person and Hathaway instils a real sense of choice in her, allowing the drama to come from within rather than the exterior struggles she faces. As wonderful as Hathaway is, the film is owned 100% by Jason Sudeikis. Playing an old childhood friend of Gloria’s, he delivers a performance unlike anything he’s done before and in the process transforms himself from humble comedic talent to brilliant character actor. While it’s best not to go into specifics with this I’ll simply say he navigates the material in such a masterful way, shifting with the tone of the piece as needed. Sudeikis's performance manages to not only anchor the films in the world it's presenting but elevates the drama, tension and sheer thrill that comes with watching the narrative unfold.
Vigalondo is no stranger to the unconventional with his films (if you haven’t seen the exceptional Timecrimes stop reading this and go watch it immediately!). While the stranger elements of Colossal definitely come from the narrative, his filmic technique works to ground the film in reality amongst the bizarre monster and destruction footage. Vigalondo clearly cares for his characters and the film shows that, offering up an evenly paced character study that doesn’t rely on it’s special effects or outlandish plot for impact, but simply the performances that inhabit it.
As previously mentioned this is a film about broken people and the film never lets you forget it. They use the kaiju as almost a form of therapy to work through their issues and their inner demons, revealing truths about themselves and those around them. Vigalondo has constructed a rich tapestry of themes with Colossal, although he never explicitly leans into any of them and because of this the film is somewhat open to interpretation. There are distinct feminist tones, as well as the broad notion of overcoming struggle, though these never take the forefront of the story instead they always lingering behind the emotion of scenes allowing the film to captivate and entertain it’s audience first and foremost.
Colossal is unlike any other film you’re likely to see this year. It’s a film filled with interesting and rich characters that both the filmmaker and the cast seem to clearly love exploring. With one of the most unique and inventive ways of exploring emotion and motivation in recent cinema history, it’s a weird and wonderful little film that is definitely worth your time.
8 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.