Movie #162 2020: Under the Skin (2013)

Who the hell thought of this? Whoever it was, I found it more interesting that I could ever have expected to.

Under the Skin marks Jonathan Glazer‘s third full length feature film, and it entails Scarlett Johansson riding a white transit van around the streets of Glasgow. Bet that’s not a scenario you ever thought you’d hear, is it?

In short, Johansson plays a seductive alien dressed in Johansson clothing, a.k.a. she’s an alien who has stolen the skin of a dead woman so that she can fit in with the rest of the world. In order to survive, she seduces unsuspecting Glaswegian men so she can absorb their life force, in a way.

What you would not expect before going into this celebral indie thriller is a commentary on the human spirit and the human conscience, but that’s exactly what you’re given.

Johansson herself is really out there on a mission to prove that she can do anything, isn’t she? This sits right between Her and Don Jon in her filmography, and I think you can agree there’s such a stark difference between these three films. From voicing an AI, to playing crime fighting Russian superhero, Johansson proves once again that she is able to mould herself into whatever role she’s given. It just so happens that this time, she’s an alien. And what a bloody good job she does too.

Under the Skin starts off with Kubrick-style sci-fi imagery which is very 2001: A Space Odyssey, and then it quickly transforms into that realisation of the human consciousness that I mentioned beforehand. The difference between being human and being animal (or alien, in this case) is deeply explored from a new perspective, and the plot delves deep into not only the human psyche, but also what it’s like to be physically human – female, specifically. The character of the alien tips the notion that “women shouldn’t go out alone at night” on its head as she becomes the predator, rather than the males who become her prey. It’s all very well done, and again, I didn’t see myself making such a profound connection with it before watching.

Although I’m not sure I can ever completely understand every single facet of this film, it was made rather well and had something very thought-provoking to say. It is also a challenging watch at times, but if you go into it really paying attention to each nuance, you may be as captivated and hypnotised by it as I was. Therefore, this one comes as a high recommendation for me, but it’s one that you really have to devote all of your time and attention to to really get the impact from it that I had.

Quite nicely, I made one note about this film that summarises the whole thing completely, so here goes… I simply wrote the following:

”File this under: high-concept, high-art, sci-fi indie thriller”. It’s all of those things, and many more. A bravo goes out from me to Glazer, who impresses greatly here.

Under the Skin is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK – but not for long! This movie is set to leave the service at the end of this month, so get in there while you can!

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: 

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