Netflix’s Spiderhead, a new sci-fi film from Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, has just assembled a noteworthy cast: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, and Jurnee Smollett. Zombieland and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick are handling the script, which is adapted from a short story by George Saunders. The story involves an “experimental prison where inhabitants are guinea pigs.”
Deadline has the scoop on Spiderhead, a new Netflix film from Joseph Kosinski. Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, and Lovecraft Country breakout Jurnee Smollett are all set to star in the film, which is “set in the near future, when convicts are offered the chance to volunteer as medical subjects in hopes of shortening their sentences. The focus is on two prisoners who become the test patients for emotion-altering drugs that force the prisoners to grapple with their pasts in a facility run by a brilliant visionary who supervises the program.”
It’s an adaptation of the George Saunders short story Escape from Spiderhead, which was published in the New Yorker (you can read it here), and also collected in the Saunders short story collection Tenth of December. It’s a very dark story, and in an interview, Saunders touched on that darkness, saying:
“In ‘Escape from Spiderhead’ prisoners are used for the testing of experimental pharmaceuticals, even unto death. So I understand that this might come off as a little … negative. After all, we are not doing that now. (Well, just to animals. Like bunnies. And monkeys. Even to the big monkeys, so very much like us. But not to prisoners. Never to prisoners.) Would we ever do it? Oh, come on. No way. We are a happy, kindly people. Has there ever been a case, in recent human history, where a group of (up to that point kindly/happy) people treated another group cruelly, even unto death, just because they considered that group somewhat sub-human, and therefore beneath pity?”
In other words, you probably shouldn’t expect this movie to be a laugh-riot. From a casting perspective, this is shaping up to be something solid – Hemsworth, Teller, and Smollett have all proven they’re very good at what they do. The wildcard here, at least in my humble opinion, is Kosinski. His films Tron: Legacy and Oblivion prove that Kosinski is definitely a stylist who knows how to compose a gorgeous shot, but both of those films left me emotionally cold. And while Kosinski’s upcoming Top Gun: Maverick (which also stars Teller) looks fun, I have a feeling it’s going to follow that same “good looking but emotionally lacking” throughline in his previous titles. All of this is to say I’m not entirely convinced Kosinski is the right guy for this sort of material. But I’m hoping for the best.
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