Netflix quietly dropped a movie on its platform today that on paper, has all the makings of a hit. Fresh off his success with Top Gun: Maverick, director Joseph Kosinski reunites with actor Miles Teller, along with Chris Hemsworth and Jurnee Smollett to tell this cautionary tale about Spiderhead, a facility that specializes in testing experimental pharmaceuticals. With an interesting premise, a talented cast, and a director coming off a huge hit what could go wrong?
Spiderhead takes place in a near-distant future where criminals like Jeff (Miles Teller) can forgo prison time in favor of being part of a scientific study about the effects of some potentially life-changing drugs. These convicts are essentially volunteer lab rats in experiments ranging from making them laugh at anything, to verbalizing their innermost thoughts on command. The study is run by Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), a man who acts chummy with his subjects to their faces, but behind the scenes is willing to push the boundaries of ethics in his quest for discovery. The question Jeff must figure out is how far Abnesti is willing to endanger the lives of his subjects in order to help the greater good.
Spiderhead is certainly an intriguing concept, but unfortunately as a film, it never pays off that concept or goes anywhere particularly interesting with it. The film isn't really long, but it moves incredibly slowly with bits and pieces of backstories revealed along the way and not much forward progress happening in the main plot. It can't really even be categorized as a thriller because nothing remotely thrilling ever happens. It's just kind of there and then it ends. I think all the pieces are there for this to have worked, but suspense and actual intrigue needed to be a part of the plot.
It's not that Spiderhead isn't a watchable movie or that it's poorly made, it's just that it never really justifies why the story is being told. The tonal choices during the film's climax are also puzzling with the soundtrack choices in particular--the film can't seem to decide what it wants to be. It seems like all filmmakers these days just want to copy that Guardians of the Galaxy formula and use random popular oldies to dress up an action sequence and make it more memorable and fun, whether they fit the mood or not. Ultimately, Spiderhead is a forgettable film with interesting ideas, yet nothing to say.