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Review - 'Under The Skin'

Review - 'Under The Skin'

I apologize for this late, late, late review, but I wanted to talk about this film. Released in 2014, 'Under The Skin' is the third film from Brian Glazer. Glazer isn't the most active director; releasing only three films in the past 15 years. He makes his films count though, even if all three of them have polarized audiences. 

Scarlett Johansson, in one of her best performances, plays what seems to be an alien. She devours humans but slowly gains interest in their lifestyle and starts to identify as the female human form she has embodied. 

'Under The Skin' is a very beautifully shot, yet off-putting film. It's hard to watch but also hard to turn away from. If the goal was to make ugly look good, Glazer certainly accomplishes that here. Everything is shot so thoughtfully and carefully that it almost feels dream-like. This I feel was done purposefully to convey how Johansson's character feels as she roams through a world that is foreign to her. 

Speaking of Scarlett Johansson, I honestly didn't know she had this kind of performance in her until I saw this film. It's a one woman show and she nails it. She manages to look dead in side, and at the same time constantly curious about everything that surrounds her. She's downright scary during the sexual-in-nature human devouring scenes and conversely she conveys subtle hints of humanity and warmth in the moments when she starts to adjust to the nature of human life.

Not everybody is going to like this film. It's definitely more art-house, and with that comes some very out-of-the-box, unconventional story telling techniques. The screenplay by Jonathan Glazer and Walter Campbell was adapted from the book of the same name authored by Michel Faber and presents a story that is told visually rather than through dialogue. There's some dialogue here and there, but you could honestly mute it and you'd still understand what's going on. The score is appropriately minimalist, composed thoughtfully by Mica Levi.

The film isn't quite perfect though, Apart from an impressive reveal, I didn't feel like the ending stuck the landing.  there is symbolism that can be garnered from it, it just felt a tad anti-climactic. There's also many thoughtful silences where you'll see the same shot drone on for minutes while Johansson observes someone or something, or herself. Some of these are effective, some of them are unnecessary and drag the movie on a little longer than it needed to be. 

'Under The Skin' is a film of dark beauty of which I have never seen the likes of before. The story told is incredibly engaging thanks to great writing, phenomenal camera work and a completely committed performance from Scarlett Johansson. A good number of viewers may not have the stomach for what this film has to offer, but if you want to see what art looks like on-screen, this is a great example.

Written by Rhys Paine on 7/15/16

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