When Netflix released the trailer for its slated 2022 releases, it featured a tiny snippet of Chris Hemsworth from the much-awaited sci-fi drama Spiderhead. As a mad scientist who is yet a subversion of the quintessential tropes, Hemsworth is seen coolly seeking permission from his test subjects before drugging them. In a spine-chilling manner, he says, “Acknowledge?”, before the subject confirms affirmation.
Unlike his previous films Thor or Extraction, Hemsworth is no hero in Joseph Kosinski’s adaptation of George Saunders’ short story. Following his successful release last month with the Tom Cruise-starrer Top Gun: Maverick, Kosinski presented a more optimistic and hopeful version of Black Mirror to the Netflix audience.
With Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick helming the screenplay, the film is loyal to Saunders’ original source material. While Spiderhead has been overlooked by many, it is important to acknowledge its psychological brilliance. Spiderhead does not aim to make the audience wary of technology or a future apocalypse. Instead, it is rooted in the moral depravity of the human mind and the complex nature of feelings and emotions amidst a burgeoning mind-controlling human experiment and mind-altering drugs.
At the centre, Hemsworth as a crazy, power-hungry scientist helms the titular Spiderhead, a penitentiary for testing these drugs. However, unlike other mad scientists of the genre, Hemsworth is his usual charming, suave self. He does not hold back on wreaking havoc on other people’s lives, all the while maintaining a calm, collected look. The eerie composure adds to his sinister demeanour and adds to the rising terror within the film.
The film also stars Miles teller, Jurnee Smollett, BeBe Bettencourt and Tess Habruich among others. Teller, too, exudes absolute brilliance in his revelatory performance as one of the test subjects in the film. While the guilt of his past weighs down on him, he soon begins to feel the side effects of the love drug for fellow test subject Lizzy. Burdened by the traumatic memories of drunk driving that killed his friend and girlfriend, Teller’s character, Jeff is seemingly a part of the experiment to let go of the guilt.
The film is not embedded with too many twists and turns. It’s dark and psychologically stimulating and forces one to be rooted in the present, desperately awaiting answers. Towards the end, the future seems bleak for Jeff and Lizzy who escape Spiderhead. While Hemsworth is seemingly dead, the film ends on a hopeful and positive note where Jeff understands the value of forgiveness and moving on.