Oct 14, 2011

Review: The Thing

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Release Date:  13 October 2011
Rating: (MA15+)
Runtime:  103 mins

Recently, there has been a growing trend in remaking films only released a couple of years ago: 2008's Let the Right One In  (Let Me In, 2010), and 2009's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011) amongst them. While this is a prequel, this detail is a mere technicality, given the film holds such striking similarities in action and story to the original. In this case, we applaud the 29 year gap between John Carpenter's 1982 film and the obvious attention given to developing a script that is grounded and realistic in terms of character, but also highly amusing. 

Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a graduate student of paleontology, is persuaded by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) to accompany his team (including classmate Adam, here played by Eric Christian Olsen on a top-secret mission to Antarctica. The effectiveness of the first helicopter scene in which the research team fly in to the base cannot be underestimated: here, we get a small glimpse of each character's true nature, including a very genuine, all-American boy in the form of basketball fan and helicopter pilot, Carter (Joel Edgerton). 

The pristine snow-covered vistas glimpsed from above seem still yet wild, but don't really give any indication that this mysterious discovery might be anything seriously sinister. Easy, light banter between the actors sets off the suspenseful tone, showing similarities to other recent genre outings like Troy Nixey's 2011 gem Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (a remake produced and written by Mexican master Guillermo del Toro). Following the reveal of a mysterious underground ice-cave and its contents, fissures in the ice holding the team together begin to develop as the group return to base and begin to examine the alien find. 

Winstead and Edgerton play a deadly game of Laser Force.
While not at the same level as the Saw films, the notion of trust and the action of people beginning to turn on each other due to paranoia, founded or otherwise, creates excellent drama and tension and allows for steady character development. Depite our overwhelming urge to issue the film with a new tagline, something similar to 'When life burns' or 'Problem? Kill it with fi-yah!', The Thing is a very satisfying, entertaining view. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead excels as the smart, grounded, determined Kate Lloyd whose easy alliance with Carter (an entirely natural, well-cast Joel Edgerton) adds a stunningly human element to a film that could have gone the way of full frontal, B-movie schlock. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the core characters here have more to offer and it's nice to see that promise delivered upon. Coupled with impressive visual effects and creature design that doesn't overwhelm on the CG front, The Thing is a highly effective genre film and a great way to spend a couple of hours. 


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