Spiderhead Penitentiary is a prison with only one bar: that’s where you’ll find the espresso machine. This new Netflix production takes place in the world’s swankiest prison – an island retreat with clean lines, plush futons, flattering lighting and no areas closed off from the outside world. Those perks are payment for the convicts’ participation in an experimental drug-testing program — though it’s entirely voluntary and they can return to their cells on the mainland at any time.
Big chance for that. The mood-altering compounds that Warden Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) doses them with via jewel-box-like implants grafted to the base of their spines are mostly a blast. Would sir think of Laffodil to induce helpless amusement, or Luvactin to spur romantic enthusiasm for a fellow inmate? How about a tongue-loosening verbaluce as an accompaniment to put the experience into words? Provided you can handle the occasional bout of existential terror inflicted by Darkenfloxx, life is good – or at least that’s how it feels, in brain chemical terms. And isn’t that the same?
Such dilemmas swirl around this gripping sci-fi doodle, stylishly directed by Joseph Kosinski, whose wonderful Top Gun: Maverick is currently exploding in theaters. An extension of George Saunders’ 2010 short story, Escape from Spiderhead is entertainingly acted and cleverly put together, with plot details bleeding out at just the right pace. But it lacks the thrilling existential giddiness and lingering coldness of Alex Garland’s ex machina, to which it owes a considerable and obvious debt: in fact, it’s essentially the ex machina to follow while brewing cups of tea and checking your phone, which is possibly everything Netflix wanted from it.
The impossibly stylish hideaway is present and correct, as is the handsome tech guru (Hemsworth) and dubious misfit (Miles Teller’s Jeff, who is serving his life for a crime that is beginning to come to light) who are troubled by the project’s broader ethical implications is . There’s even an incongruous dance number – although it’s more likely to be Roxy Music’s More Than This, which Hemsworth is a part of, than Oliver Cheatham’s Get Down Saturday Night. (A broken music app makes a nice excuse for the attention-grabbing eclectic soundtrack in the film.)
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/spiderhead-review-slick-drugged-up-thriller-cosy-netflix-night/ a slick, drugged-up thriller for a cosy Netflix night