*This is going to be a relatively short review. These short review will be more and more common as I try to weigh in on as many films as possible at the end of the year.
Under the Skin
I remember first reading about Under the Skin a few months ago thinking that it looked like a more serious version of Species. Then I forgot about it until I received a screener. This is definitely different, and much better, than Species.
Under the Skin is probably most notable for its A-list star, Scarlett Johannson. It's notable because this by far the weirdest movie she's ever done, and she made it at the height of her Marvel popularity. This is just a cool move for Johannson, and it made me respect her as actress even more. I've always felt that her Black Widow character is kind of worthless (though she does get more attention in the Cap sequel) from an acting standpoint. It's still primarily a physical performance. Her role in Under the Skin, while still physical (her beautiful appearance is important) is much more nuanced than anything she has done lately.
Johansson's performance is different because she's playing an alien that lures men to her home/weird black void for unclear, but certainly evil purposes. While most alien-themed films would be much more straightforward, this film is told from Johannson's perspective. So she knows what she's doing and why, but there's no reason for her character to announce it. We just have to figure it out. Johannson's performance is basically a series of reactions to the world around her as she carries out her nefarious job. Her performance early on is chilly, to say the least, yet she somehow evokes sympathy in the latter half of the film when her character changes. But back to that weird black void I mentioned.
Under the Skin is like a nightmare, and I mean that as a compliment. From the dead-eyed huntress Johansson plays to the creepy plot to the unsettling music, this film creates and sustains mood like few other films. Writer/director Jonathan Glazer, adapting from the much more straightforward book by Michael Faber, definitely had a vision for this film. Visually, it's striking and memorable, but it's the score by Mica Levi that stuck with me. The music is reminiscent of theremin music from the sci-fi films of the '50s. Normally, such music would just be cheesy, but it is tweaked here enough that it sticks with you long after the film is over.
So if you're looking for one of the most unnerving, strange movies of the year, check out Under the Skin (it's available on Amazon Prime Instant at the moment).
Under the Skin receives a: