Big Game review
Finland enters action B-movies
According to yle.fi, the newest film from director Jelmari Helander (Rare Exports) has the distinction of spending the largest motion picture budget in the history of Finland at 8.5 million Euros (roughly $11 million). Despite its silly plot and unlikely premise, Big Game hearkens to 80s/ 90s action-adventure craze with a B-movie inflection. The narrative follows a young boy earning a rite of a passage on a hunt in the Finnish Lapland when he finds a crash-landed pod protecting the President of the United States after an assassination attempt while onboard Air Force One. Helander was able to secure the highest-grossing actor in box office history to play the President, superstar Samuel L. Jackson (the Star Wars prequels, Marvel Cinematic Universe), as well as other talented character actors to round out the cast. While this film certainly won’t win an Academy Award or make Finland a filmmaking powerhouse, Big Game still emerges as an exciting coming-of-age action-adventure with an impressive cast despite an uninspired score finding more than just influence from other film soundtracks.
Jackson stars as President William Alan Moore, another recent movie president with a gun in his hands at one point in the adventure. Like Olympus Has Fallen or White House Down, the premise of Big Game hinges on an unlikely hero to step up and defend the leader of the free world. The superstar plays President Moore a little more grounded and realistic than action hero presidents Jamie Foxx and Aaron Eckhart to give the audience more than just an important politician in a suit, developing on-screen chemistry with child protagonist Oskari. As he fights to survive the freezing elements and betrayal, Moore reveals a more human character than a run-of-the-mill movie president. He follows better judgment and allows the 13-year-old hunter to finish his rite and lead them to safety. But Jackson inevitably wields a gun and says his signature term—this is still a B-movie after all (there just aren’t any snakes on his plane).
Newcomer Onni Tommila collaborates again with Rare Exports director Helander to star as the young protagonist, Oskari. When Oskari shamefully fails a community hunting tradition, his legendary hunter father arranges for the boy to receive a second chance—venturing out into the unyielding Finnish forest alone to hunt some big game and return with a trophy. In the midst of his hunt, Oskari finds a flying craft crash-landed and inspects it, rescuing the U.S. president and becoming his unlikely guide through the wilderness. Like the junior members from The Goonies or Shortround from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Oskari has a chip on his shoulder to succeed and prove his worth to the elder travelling companion. Tommila nabbed the role of a lifetime as a child actor, co-starring with Samuel L. Jackson in an action movie shot on location.
Ray Stevenson (Insurgent, Thor: The Dark World) plays the predictably-turncoat villain of the piece, chewing up the scenery in his interactions with Jackson. His betrayal is so obviously-impending in the first act that perhaps Helander should have established more trust with the President before changing teams. The remaining cast list boasts several familiar, respected names in the filmmaking community despite the one-dimensional nature all war room characters receive in these movies. Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Cloud Atlas) seems like hardly any work was required, dividing time in his opening scene between explaining the situation and eating lunch. Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives,” Transamerica) has her name listed in the cast, but never really gets an opportunity to act in this film beyond following other characters around and delivering an inconsequential line from the peanut gallery. Victor Garber (“The Flash,” “Alias”) plays the vice president and that’s about it. His character arc is so dull and predictable, it isn’t even worth describing. Unfortunately, character actors in an action movie war room will never break these tropes.
Despite an unlikely plot, logical inconsistencies, regrettably recycled soundtrack, and squandered talent among the supporting cast, Big Game still manages to entertain through the chemistry of its two leads—a superstar and an unknown—surviving extreme conditions and political betrayal through extended sequences of gun fire and helicopter travel. While Big Game may not seem a likely candidate for most expensive motion picture to come out of Finland, it’s a necessary step for the country/culture to establish a presence in global cinema by hiring big-name actors to star in an action piece with broad appeal. American studios aren’t the only ones capable of low-budget, action B-movies and filmmakers around the world have taken notice.