People will be talking about Scarlett Johansson a lot this month. After the release of the game changing ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ last weekend, the actress stars in the unique sci-fi thriller ‘Under The Skin’, which will expand it’s release beyond New York and Los Angeles this weekend. The Jonathan Glazer’s film based on Michael Faber’s 2001 novel wowed audiences at Toronto, Telluride, and Venice, but now the general public will be able to lay their eyes on this thought-provoking piece of cinema.
Johansson stars as an unnamed alien visitor who disguises herself as a beautiful woman in order to lure the unsuspecting men of a Scottish town to her lair with the intentions of studying the species. But over time, she begins to stray from her mission due to finding some humanity in herself as she is drawn to and changed by her experiences with the human race.
The first thing I have to say about this movie is that it’s not for everyone. As much as I don’t want it to be, it might come to be known to the general public as that movie where ScarJo goes full frontal. At first glance, it might be appear to be a stereotypical pretentious film major sort of movie, however, it’s definitely much more than that. But in order to see that, one has to go in with an open mind and should expect an art house picture with little dialogue that could be pretty confusing if you don’t think about what you’re watching. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s a pretty satisfying experience if you give it a chance.
Part of what makes ‘Under The Skin’ so enjoyable is the cinematography. Because the film contains little dialogue, the visuals are the primary form of storytelling. As we saw in the trailers, things look really creepy throughout the movie, especially when we’re taken to the alien’s lair. But there was also something eerily beautiful about all the negative space surrounding the pair that enters and the one that leaves. A lot of the movie leaves a lot to the imagination, but while you’re forming whatever images to fill in the blanks in your mind, you’re left with fairly unsettling scenes that might be seen in some kind of mind-bending sci-fi art gallery.
Amidst the pretty imagery was a pretty great performance from Johansson. Earlier this year we got to see her explore what it means to be human in ‘Her’, but this time she has a more hands on experience as she has a body of her own. In fact, the alien goes through some of the same beats that Samantha does such as being in a relationship or having sex. Of course, everything is much darker in this movie, but it doesn’t change the fact that the actress gave a stellar performance in both stories. Johansson nailed all the different facets of this role like the cold and stoic observer, the sexy seductress, and the inquisitive explorer.
Above all else, ‘Under The Skin’ managed to succeed in one of the most fundamental elements of science fiction: This movie used beings from other worlds to show us truths about our own world. And it managed to do this without being preachy, which is a pretty impressive feat since not many movies can pull that off anymore. After the credits rolled, this film definitely left me with a lot to think about.
When I walked out of the theater after seeing this movie, I was a little freaked out. It was weird, freaky, unsettling, and a little bit scary at times, especially at the end, but at its core, ‘Under The Skin’ is a tale that should make you think. It stays with you for a little while after it’s done. And though I wasn’t exactly enamored with it immediately afterwards, thinking about the events that took place and the themes presented in the story made me come around to appreciate it more. Not that I’m rushing to watch it again just yet since I would have to be in the right mood for it, but I’m sure that I’ll give it another viewing somewhere down the line to catch Scarlett Johansson’s excellent performance in this uneasy cinematic experience that appeals to all the senses once again.