Under the Skin

00:00 April 27, 2014
By: Fritz Esker
[Courtesy of A24]

** out of 1/2

It's relatively rare to see studios tackle sci-fi in a non-blockbuster manner, so it is refreshing to see a film like Under the Skin get released. However, the fact it doesn't quite succeed makes it even more frustrating, especially given the potential it shows in its best moments.

Skin gets off to a fantastic start, as an alien (a strong performance from Scarlett Johansson) lands in Scotland. Her mission is to seduce and kill men (the reasons for this are never explained). While that description may make the film seem like an art-house version of Species, director Jonathan Glazer excels at getting the audience to see the world through an alien's eyes. He makes seemingly mundane visuals like a motorcycle speeding down a freeway or a bustling shopping mall look genuinely creepy.

Unfortunately, the film bogs down in repetition as Johansson lures unsuspecting Scottish men to their death. It becomes dull and aimless in its middle third, enlivened by an occasional striking visual. A plot twist that occurs about 2/3 of the way through helps Skin regain its footing, but it's a development that should've happened at the 1/3 mark or, at the very latest, the halfway point.

Hardcore art-film buffs will likely enjoy Skin's abstraction and methodical pace, but casual moviegoers will probably flee the theater in droves. However, there's enough beautiful imagery here that discerning moviegoers have a good reason to keep an eye out for Glazer's next film.

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