<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Andrew Niccol. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Chandler Canterbury, Frances Fisher
Oh my god a movie based on a book by the writer of the Twilight Saga! Save us all. But low expectations could be the reason I actually thought The Host was a good sci-fi film!
Of course with Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight Saga and the novel The Host) involved in a film you’re thinking it’s going to be a lot of mushy, woman-centric romance with tacky CGI thrown in. Now I haven’t read the book but I’m guessing some credit goes to director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show, In Time) for brilliant way in which this film has been shot. So many breathtakingly beautiful scenes fill the screen that you forget the pace may be a bit slow.
Actually, slow is not the word for it. I’d say it’s paced. Not like so many films today, which are wham-bam-thank you-mam, hit-em-and-run drivel. The Host takes time to explore the characters and invests in every scene to make you feel a bit for them. Something I find lacking in most films nowadays that expect you to empathise with characters that haven’t even been given a personality!
Earth has been attacked by aliens (a surprisingly popular theme in sci-fi films) but there has been no dystopian outcome. The world is in fact a better place, with little brilliant ‘souls’ inhabiting human bodies and living in total peace, harmony and love. There’s no killing, no pollution, no fights… and some may say no fun either.
But a small band of humans still survives the invasion of the body snatchers. And Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is one of them; in love with Jared (Max Irons) and protecting her little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury). But she is soon caught by the Seeker (Diane Kruger) and implanted with a ‘soul’. Fortunately, Melanie’s soul survives with her memories in the occupied body and a duality of alien v/s human ensues. Until of course they begin to co-exist.
And this co-existence and duality that the filmmakers have played on is most interesting, or is fascinating to me. Having the real Melanie as a ‘thought voiceover’ complement and contradict the Wanderer (as her new self is now called) is intriguing. At a point you find that the alien ‘soul’ is actually more human than the human. Insightful and funny, this dichotomy and its effect on Melanie’s relationships with her family, boyfriend and new love interest make for a good watch.
Last week’s Oblivion with Tom Cruise was a mindless dud in comparison to this film. While both are pretty, The Host has some substance, a moral centre, and a relatively good plot. Even when you think there are some plot holes, they are eventually filled up neatly. Sure there are some teeny-Twilight moments: the obligatory love triangle and the principled guy saying ‘You don’t have to sleep with me just because we’re the last humans on the planet!’ But then look who wrote the book!
Critics have ripped The Host apart partly because these same critics want to get back at the author of the apocryphal Twilight movies (though I thought the last one redeemed it a tad).
I’d say if you’re a mindless dunderhead looking for popcorn thrills (like the bunch in front of me at PVR who left the film in the interval) then don’t bother. But if you like to think a bit about the universe, and how aliens may not actually come to destroy our planet, and about how humanity is sometimes less than human then I suggest you go see The Host with an open mind and you shouldn’t be too disappointed.