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Colossal
USA 2016
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Running time 109 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
4 stars


Synopsis: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a shambolic, out-of-work, slightly alcoholic, party girl. After staying out all night once too often, she stumbles home to find that her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) has packed up her things and is throwing her out. With nowhere else to go, she returns to the small town where she grew up and moves into her family home, now empty since her parents have retired and moved away. Before long she runs into an old high school friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who still lives in town and runs a bar. He offers Gloria a job waitressing and before long she’s hanging out with Oscar and his two friends, young and hunky Joel (Austin Stowell) and older, no-hoper Garth (Tim Blake Nelson). Then, after a night of drinking with the three of them, Gloria wakes up bleary-eyed and hungover only to discover an extraordinary world news story has developed: a giant, lizard-like monster has attacked Seoul overnight. As Gloria comes to terms with the news, she realises the monster has the same itchy spot on its head that she does.  And then slowly she reaches a mind-boggling conclusion: that she and the monster are one and the same.

Some films are so unexpectedly strange and wonderful that it’s really difficult to discuss them without giving away the very things that make them so great. This is one of those films. So my advice would be, put a bookmark in this review, go and see it, and then come back and read the rest because even though I’m not going to give away the most surprising aspects of what happens, just talking about this film, even in generalities, can’t help but steal away some of the delight that comes from not knowing what twists the story is about to take.

Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

First off, don’t pay much attention to that synopsis because although that’s sort of what it’s about, it’s not actually what it’s about. Colossal seems like it might be a funny, slightly romantic monster movie and for a while, that’s what it is. And then something happens (which I can’t mention) and the tone of the film suddenly becomes far more serious and topical. And very clever. All I’ll say about that is that if you want to make a film that deals with violence against women that blokes might actually go and see, then don’t make it seem like it’s a film about violence against women, make it seem like it’s a monster movie. And if you want those blokes to see it with their wives or girlfriends, then make it seem like it might be a romantic comedy as well. And if you really want to lull the unsuspecting audience into thinking both those things could be true, then cast Anne Hathaway in the lead role and let her loose in a story that is ultimately powerful and disturbing and darkly funny.

Alright, I’ve said too much.

What I can say without giving anything else away is that Vigalondo (Open Windows, 2014) has written a sharp and smart screenplay which he directs with an astute sense of knowing exactly when he has us drawn far enough into the story and its characters to flip the switch and propel us into what seems to be his ulterior motive. Hathaway is great in the role of Gloria (I never quite understand why she gets so much bad press) and Sudeikis delivers a very finely judged and compelling performance that marks him as an actor unafraid to take on roles that, shall we say, might not endear him to us. (okay, I’m saying too much again).

The monster is spectacular and funny and terrifying all at the same time and having it appear in Korea is a nice nod to those fabulous Korean monster films (kaiju, as the Japanese would call them) like Bong Joon-Ho’s 2006 hit, The Host. The cinematography by Eric Kress captures both the small town feel of Gloria’s home and the scale required for mega-destruction and mayhem caused by a giant lizard and Bear McCreary’s soundtrack has all the tension and drama you might expect from a monster film (even if it isn’t exactly a monster film). That’s it. I’m not saying any more. I hope you go and see it and I hope you appreciate it as much as I did.

 

 

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