One of the directors whose films I feel like I should be a lot more familiar with than I am over the past few years has been Nacho Vigalondo. Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial and Open Windows have all sounded like films I’d love but I just haven’t got around to watching yet. With Colossal however, I’ve finally been able to make myself familiar with Vigalondo and I have to say, if any of those other films are even half as good as Colossal, then I’m sure Vigalondo will soon become one of my favourite directors.The film follows Gloria, an unemployed, alcoholic writer who has just been kicked out of her flat in New York by her boyfriend and has to move back to her hometown, where she reconnects with Oscar, an old school friend of hers. At the same time though, Gloria discovers that she is controlling a giant monster that is terrorising Seoul, with this causing further psychological issues for her. What works brilliantly about the film is how the film uses the monster as a metaphor for the situation in Gloria’s life, even if it is a bit on the nose. The scenes where we see the damage done by the monster in Seoul are, in reality, Gloria stumbling home drunk. This is a brilliantly executed metaphor for the way in which the damage done by alcoholism can be experienced by those around the alcoholic, but this is only the start of the brilliance Vigalondo brings to this film. Now I won’t go into much detail as I don’t want to spoil the film, but through the trappings of a Kaiju film, aside from alcoholism, themes regarding fragile masculinity, self loathing and the desire of men to control women are all explored and the way Vigalondo handles these elements is both sincere and terrifying, a lot of elements becoming even more terrifying once the true nature of the characters is revealed.
This thematic weight of the film wouldn’t work nearly as well though if the cast wasn’t game for whatever Vigalondo threw at them and, thankfully, the cast is on top form here. Anne Hathaway does a brilliant job as Gloria, doing an excellent job at showing the self destructive tendencies of her character, how they are exacerbated by her alcoholism and how she becomes more reliant on herself rather than relying on men. Hathaway also does great work showing the impact that controlling a Kaiju and accidentally killing hundreds of people would have on someone’s psyche. The real surprise of the film though is Jason Sudeikis who gives easily the best performance of his career as Oscar. Sudeikis uses his natural charm to great effect at the start of the film, making Oscar seem like a genuinely caring person, interested in Gloria’s well-being, with a few uncomfortable undertones. As the film goes on though, we see a darker side to Oscar that makes all of his actions throughout the film seem more intimidating and creepy and the talents of Sudeikis help make this transition work without Oscar becoming over the top, feeling real throughout, aided by Sudeikis meeting people from Gamergate, which is clearly felt in the character. Strong performances are also seen from Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson, but it is really the dynamic between Hathaway and Sudeikis that makes the film work.
On a technical level, the music by Bear McCreary does a good job with the music whilst the cinematography and editing works effectively in contrasting the scenes in America with the scenes in Seoul with the monster. The main element I have to praise on a technical level is the monster itself. For a fairly low budget, the monster is a brilliant piece of effects work. The design is unique and the way the effects work with Hathaway’s performance does make it feel like Hathaway is controlling the monster (which is even better if it was done without Hathaway doing motion capture for the monster). There’s also this great deal of weight to the monster which does a good job of making the destruction scenes in Seoul feel believable, without which, the scenes of Hathaway’s reactions would not work as well. For the budget of the film, it’s amazing to see what Vigalondo and the whole technical team was able to do with the monster.
Overall, Colossal is the best kind of sci-fi film, one that helps highlight aspects of the real world. Through the trappings of a Kaiju film, Colossal is able to explore themes of self-destruction, self-loathing and misogyny in an intelligent, thought provoking manner, all of this aided by excellent performances from Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis.
My Rating: 5/5