It’s hard to fault cinemas naysayers these days, with a seemingly endless onslaught of sequels and remakes crowding multiplexes. With the golden age of TV upon us and streaming services like Netflix creating new and unique programming on what seems like a daily basis, its hard argue with those who prefer sitting at home watching a new show over venturing out to the cinema to see the fiftieth superhero movie or the ninetieth installment of a Fast and the Furious. Thankfully, Nacho Vigalondo has made Colossal, a movie bursting with creativity and ingenuity. Vigalondo was nominated for an Academy Award for his short film Timecrimes, and has made other features in the Spanish language, but Colossal marks his second English-language feature. It stars Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudekis, and hopefully those names are enough to draw audiences, as neither of these stars have been in anything quite like this.
It is far more effective to go into Colossal knowing very little about plot details, but frankly the film is so creative you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you what happens. Anne Hathaway is Gloria, a writer who falls victim to a social media uproar and finds herself unemployed. Gloria turns to partying and booze, and is dumped by her supportive yet exhausted boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). This upheaval forces her to leave New York City and move back to her family home in a small American town. Meanwhile, a giant monster has begun appearing in Seoul, South Korea, terrorizing the city and shocking the world. Any more information would risk giving the surprises in Colossal away, but I will say this: the film is a compelling combination of a study of abuse and power systems and a Godzilla-esque monster movie. Yes, really.
Hathaway shows much of the vulnerability that made her performances in Les Miserables and Rachel Getting Married so successful, but Colossal brings forth a snarkier edge that makes her character delightful to watch. Sudekis, who plays Oscar, an old friend of Gloria still living in their hometown turns in the finest performance of his career, and marks a considerable yet welcome change from his typical comic role. The two of them together exude a weird sort of chemistry that makes their scenes together incredibly watchable as the viewer tries to piece together the seemingly disjointed plot elements.
Colossal is a remarkable experience largely because for so much of the film, things that feel as if they should have such high stakes are played with such a laidback demeanor. The film is almost calm to a fault, so that when things start to ramp up in intensity, it struggles to feel totally grounded. Further to this, some of the more interesting plot elements – for example, the specifics of Gloria losing her job – are never investigated, which is a shame as it would likely allow the viewer to understand a lot more about who Gloria is. The reasoning behind some of the films mythology feels muddied as well, and perhaps Vigalondo could have used some collaboration on his complex screenplay to flesh it out a bit.
Still, Colossal has a deeply gratifying conclusion, that leaves just the right amount up in the air. Thanks to great performances from Hathaway and Sudekis, and bold, confident direction from Vigalondo. Colossal is sure to be one of the most exciting cinematic treats of the year. I can’t think of a better antidote to the crushing waves of reboots than this.