The Host (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner8/04/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Astutely directed and heightened by a terrific central performance by Saoirse Ronan, The Host scrapes a pass as a decent Sci-Fi movie with some nice ideas, but it's frequently pulled down by the angsty teen love triangle trappings of Stephenie Meyer's source novel.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, The Host is based on the novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer and takes place in a future where the Earth has been almost entirely conquered by a parasitic, body-snatching alien race known as the Souls, who've turned the planet's population into peaceful, perpetually polite pod people. Saoirse Ronan stars as Melanie Stryder, one of the planet's few surviving resistance members, who gets captured and possessed by an alien known as Wanderer (later ‘Wanda’), but whose consciousness survives in the newly possessed body and continues her resistance via bolshy voiceover and the occasional physical override.

With Melanie fighting Wanda for control from within and Wanda, in turn, reliving and being affected by Melanie's memories, they escape and find refuge in the resistance's desert hideaway run by Melanie's uncle Jeb (William Hurt). Once there, emotional complications come to the fore, with Melanie remaining attached to her suspicious former boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) and Wanda falling for fair-haired freedom fighter Ian (Jake Abel). Meanwhile, a tenacious Seeker (Diane Kruger) is determined to recapture Melanie/Wanda and heads out into the desert.

The Good
Andrew Niccol's solid Sci-Fi credentials include Gattaca and The Truman Show and his influence is keenly felt here, creating an impressive visual aesthetic for the newly conquered Earth that's layered with nicely-observed details, such as all branding being eliminated or the fact that Wanda is able to steal a car just by politely asking for one. Similarly, the plot delivers an intriguing twist on a familiar genre idea and gets decent mileage out of the allusion to similar Sci-Fi sources (e.g. Invasion of the Body Snatchers), while also, amusingly, managing to steal from body-swap comedy classic All Of Me.

The film's saving grace is a terrific performance from Saoirse Ronan, who's utterly compelling and genuinely moving as Wanda, an angsty alien learning what it means to be human. There's also strong support from both William Hurt and Diane Kruger (an emotionless alien – the role she was born to play), though Irons and Abel are both pure cardboard in the conflicting love interest roles, rendering the parts practically indistinguishable.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is the constant influx of tedious/unintentionally hilarious dialogue surrounding the love triangle stuff, as well as some uncomfortably dodgy moments such as Jared's unsubtle seduction technique or a scene where Wanda has to cut herself to enter a hospital.

Worth seeing?
The clash between author and director is so pronounced that The Host often feels like a petulant tug-of-war between a decent Sci-Fi movie and a laughably trashy teen romance. Fortunately, the Sci-Fi flick wins, but only just.

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The Host (M)
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Content updated: 10/12/2019 20:11

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