THING, THE (2011)
Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) urges Columbia University paleontologist Dr. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to accompany him on a mission to Antarctica to research an exciting new find. They join a Norwegian research team led by Edvard Wolner (Trond Espen Seim) which has stumbled across an alien craft. Kate, along with Sander's research assistant Adam (Eric Christian Olsen), and the others discover an organism that seems to have died in the ice eons ago. When a simple experiment awakens and frees the thing, they discover its terrible secret: it can replicate like a virus and mimic any organic material it touches, including humans. As lives are lost and desperation mounts, Kate teams up with the helicopter pilot, Sam Carter (Joel Edgerton) and his sidekick, Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) in an effort to survive - and to kill the thing before it threatens the rest of the planet.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In what is billed a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 original, the filmmakers are able to escalate the visual and special effects using the latest digital tools, to great .. er .. effect. The thing about 'the thing' in The Thing is that it can replicate the human body, hide inside it, without affecting human functionality - including personality, speech, etc. It's a truly horrific concept, and it is manifested through a truly horrific creature. I won't go into details, except to say the effects work in some scenes is astonishing.
But before we get to those scenes, there is a dramatic opening sequence to establish the scenario, with Ulrich Thomsen (one of my favourite Scandinavian actors) as the headstrong scientist whose single minded, perhaps careless interest in the creature leads to
Trouble. This is all how it should be in the genre, which punishes man's interference with nature or even with alien life forms, with nasty payback.
That's why, like in so many such stories, there is no logical motive for the thing killing humans with such passion and determination.
Unlike early sc-fi movies made for the Saturday matinee sessions, filmmakers have in recent times turned to acclaimed actors to push the film's appeal into broader audiences. Hence Thomsen and the rest of the cast, including Aussie Joel Edgerton, who also stars in Warrior, which releases in Australia just two weeks after The Thing. Also notable is a terrific performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She is really the star of the show, further proof that woman are increasingly well represented at all age groups and across all genres. Winstead is bright, engaging and totally credible as the palaeontologist Kate Lloyd.
The Norwegian cast of character actors reminds us of the depth of talent in European cinema Australians hardly ever get to see, and the film's production values are first class. Marco Beltrami's gingery score is great and if you stay for the end credits you will be rewarded not only by an unsettling coda which is used to explain why the film is a prequel, but also a lovely end theme by none other than Ennio Morricone.
And don't arrive late or you'll miss the raunchy little Norwegian joke before the bad things start.
Review by Louise Keller:
From its isolated icy setting to its chilling premise and heart-pumping execution, this prelude to John Carpenter's 1982 classic sci-fi horror film of the same name is a ripper. In his striking feature debut, director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr assuredly compiles all the elements for the genre and teases them out enticingly in a gripping film alive with tension and terrifying moments. Superb special effects enhance our experience: I sat on the edge of my seat throughout, squirming and watching hypnotically as The Thing violently morphed its way into bodies, leaving us with several gasp aloud moments.
The never-ending white horizon of Antarctica is the immaculate setting where a group of Norwegian researchers on a geological research station have made an exciting discovery. It is so exciting they have recruited Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a pretty and ultra smart palaeontologist to examine their findings. It is not until she travels 10,000 miles that she understands the reason for their excitement: they have an alien frozen in a huge block of a glacier, from which Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) wants a specimen taken.
After being cajoled into a sense of security when the researchers and pilots are relaxing over drinks, dancing and music, the terror begins when the creature escapes from its icy prison and devours the first in the body count. The graphic way the creature swallows up its prey before revealing its disgusting innards is creepily done and we are told that while it can absorb a human being, reproduce its cells and take human form, it is unable to process inorganic materials, such as titanium or fillings from teeth.
Suddenly the grand adventure has become a nightmare and as the thing morphs itself into various of the personnel at the station, terror sets in as nobody knows who is human and who has been infected. As the creature reveals itself, its facial features initially divide, before the face opens up, like an unholy, messy book, when slimy, gory organs shoot out and huge claw-like limbs aim for the jugular. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Most effective is the scene when two heads merge together in a spectacularly hideous way, following which the creature sets about its fatally destructive path laden with its slimy, shiny tentacles and massive limbs. A flame thrower comes in handy.
All the performances are terrific - especially Winstead as the quick-thinking palaeontologist, who finds herself calling the shots, Seim as the arrogant scientist and Joel Edgerton, the sympathetic earring-wearing pilot who carries common sense in his pocket.
This is a well made genre film with plenty to recommend it as well as rating highly on the terror meter.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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THING, THE (2011) (M)
CAST: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Trond Espen Seim, Ulrich Thomsen, Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen, Kim Bubbs
PRODUCER: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman
DIRECTOR: Matthijs van Heijningen
SCRIPT: Eric Heissserer (based on story by John W. Campbell Jr)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michel Abramowicz
EDITOR: Julian Clarke, Peter Boyle
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 13, 2011
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.