As a functioning adult who doesn’t pee himself quite as often, however, I am genuinely surprised at how much more ambitious action movies have become. As an example, Avengers 2 is a crushingly long 150 minutes long after the studio cut out an hour. It can’t just be about a robot trying to take over the world, either; no, your brain needs to keep a mental chart of all the relationships, motivations and plans within plans. And Avengers 2 is relatively straight forward compared to some other recent fare (hi Christopher Nolan).
Big Game, with its 90 minute long simple story about a young Finnish boy saving the President from terrorists, remembers that you can give an audience a satisfying night out without needing to kidnap them for the entire weekend.
Your first thought while watching this film will be “Ooops, we seem to have walked into a Lord of the Rings screening instead” what with the sweeping views of snow-topped mountains and radiant forests. This is a stunningly beautiful movie, and fortunately this doesn’t just extend to the pretty desktop wallpapers. Interestingly, this is an action movie that doesn’t have a lot of fighting, which makes for a unique viewing experience. The last half of the film is essentially one big chase scene, the highlight being Oskaria and the President making their getaway from the terrorists in a fridge.
The shortest way to describe the plot is “functional”. It’s not Gormenghast by any stretch but it’s comprehensible, and there are a fair amount of interesting themes going through this film, with both the President and Oskaria having to prove themselves as being worthy and doubted all along the way. It’s all good character parallels and good growth, though the film’s plot loses points due to the villain’s plan being less logical than stripping naked, covering yourself in honey and walking into a bear sanctuary.
The script does an awful lot right and a right lot awfully. The exposition is straight up terrible, filled with lines like “That was an insensitive thing of me to say to you, seeing as you took a bullet for me in the past,” or “You are 13 now, and as you know at the age of 13 you go on a hunt,” as if the characters are about to turn to the audience and say “By the way, Samuel L. Jackson is playing the President, just so you remember. And when you hear the ominous music, the bad guys are nearby.” But then it actually gets rolling and morphs before your very eyes into a smart, witty and very funny movie; in particular, anything said by Samuel L. Jackson’s bumbling President Bill Moore is guaranteed at least a chuckle.
Speaking of, the acting is uniformly excellent. Between this and Kingsmen, for all of his badass roles in the past Jackson is in his element as a complete wimp, and just about everyone else brings their A game. With a cast this on-point, it’s therefore amazing to have a stand-out at all, but for it to be a sixteen year old is downright inspiring. Onni Tommila balances bravado and vulnerability with confidence as Oskaria; watch out for a scene in the middle of the film where he has to convey a lot of emotion with no dialogue and in mere seconds, and he completely nails it. Of course, it makes me feel horrible; at sixteen I couldn’t even make curry and this kid’s out-acting Jim Broadbent.
Big Game is not ambitious. It’s not complex. In fact, it’s kind of stupid. So at least it’s an incredibly well-made kind of stupid. It’s not Jean Cocteau, but if you want a good night out then you could do a lot worse.
Big Game (UK Cert 12A)
Director: Jalmari Helander
Screenplay: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Onni Tommila, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Stevenson, Mehmet Kurtulus, Jim Broadbent