The short story-inspired concept for this film turns out to be too thin to carry a whole movie, but it still mostly works thanks to engaging performances from stars Hemsworth and Teller. The two convincingly display the wide range of emotions brought on by both powerful drugs and extreme circumstances.
Spiderhead is ultimately a story about human behavior: what people are capable of, what inspires good and bad deeds, how we each come to terms with our actions, and the age-old question of whether the world would be a better place if we could control the actions of others.
Of course, a movie can't fully answer questions like these, but it can raise them in interesting ways. While Steve's motives seem to boil down to childhood abandonment issues, the prisoners' questioning of why they keep consenting to being experimented on opens up a lot to think about. Unfortunately, this is left largely unexplored, and the film comes to a somewhat abrupt closure.
The laboratory setting in a vast concrete building contrasts with the warm, feel-good '70s and '80s tunes and the occasional views of a gorgeous surrounding landscape. That tonal confusion, paralleled in Hemsworth's smarmy salesman-slash-evil mastermind performance, could unsettle viewers (as it's likely meant to). Or it could leave them indifferent, somewhere right in the middle of the story's swinging moods.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Netflix.