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Fantasia 2017 Review: ‘Colossal’ Explores the Collateral Damage of Kaiju

By  · Published on January 23rd, 2017

Nacho Vigalondo’s latest is also his and Jason Sudeikis’ best.

Monster movies come in all shapes and sizes, but they typically share some traits in their structure, intent, and execution. Nacho Vigalondo however isn’t your typical writer/director. His feature debut (Timecrimes) offers up a smart time travel tale, his underappreciated second film (Extraterrestrial) managed the same with another science fiction setup, and his third movie (Open Windows) is garbage we don’t need to discuss. He also cuts a mean rug at film festival dance parties, but the point is when he sets out to make a movie the setup doesn’t always dictate the outcome.

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has been “looking” for work each day for a year now and partying until she blacks out each night, and her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) has had enough. She heads back home to her now deserted family home, reconnects with a childhood friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), and picks up a job as a waitress at his bar. The heavy drinking continues, but her new life grows complicated when she gets a wake up call of sorts in the form of shocking news from the other side of the globe.

A giant creature has appeared in Seoul, South Korea and laid waste to numerous buildings and human lives.

It returns again the following day, and as the world wonders what to make of the beast Gloria makes a surprising discovery. The monster’s arrival is connected to her actions in a very specific way.

Vigalondo’s fourth film, Colossal, is not only his best, it’s also his most accomplished. The setup still involves a smart hook – a highly original one too – but while that’s sometimes been the extent of his work here it’s just one small part of the whole. The film is a monster movie of sorts, but the real focus is the dramatic journey of a woman whose self-destructive descent has both consequences and collateral damage – neither of which have proven to be her concern. Vigalondo gives these themes a life beyond the norm, and the result is an engaging and frequently surprising film.

Hathaway does good work here as does Tim Blake Nelson as a fellow addict and member of the small town’s late-night drinking club with Gloria and Oscar. His role is small, but he creates a character who feels lived in and who adds to our understanding of Gloria. The highlight performance-wise though is Sudeikis. He may still have the same haircut he exhibits in almost every movie, but his character here is a far more complicated and nuanced creation than any he’s tackled before. His comedic chops are still on display too, but he exists as more than just the expected fun, romantic interest. This is a turning point performance that hopefully sees Sudeikis tackling not just more dramatic roles but incredibly complex ones too.

There are some bumps in Vigalondo’s script as the middle of the film sags a bit with the situation being established and then re-established to ensure viewers are fully grasping the situation. There’s a redundancy to some of the action, but it’s brief. A bigger issue is the character roster’s lack of a good person. Everyone here is a prick one way or the other, and while the honest look into the darkness in people’s hearts is necessary for the tale being told the absence of light feels unnatural. And finally, the eventual explanation as to how things connect is a slight and weightless one. These are all real issues, but the film overcomes them with an original voice, surprising turns, and a satisfyingly earned conclusion.

Like a weird hybrid of Godzilla and When a Man Loves a Woman, Vigalondo’s latest is a fresh, smartly-crafted dramatic thriller interested in the human cost of the monsters we create and the monsters we become. Spoiler… the cost is high.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.