Midnight Madness Report: Big Game
As he welcomed the sopping wet crowd—thanks to Friday night’s almost cinematic downpour—to the world premiere of Big Game, Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes explained that this TIFF series is more than just gore and ghouls. Just like What We Do in the Shadows brings the funny this year, Big Game brings the action.
Set in the mountains of northern Finland, Samuel L. Jackson plays United States President, William Moore. But as Air Force One descends into Helsinki for a G8 conference, terrorists (with the help of a team of inside men) shoot down the plane leaving Moore, a notably helpless representation of the most powerful man in the world, helpless on the forest floor. His only hope is a 13-year-old boy Oskari (Onni Tommila) on a rite of passage to bring back large prey (or, big game) to prove his worth as a hunter to his village. Pentagon scheming, explosions, traps, and plenty of one-liners ensue.
A horror it isn’t, but Big Game definitely knows what it is—a schlocky action flick that’s tonnes of fun. Finnish director Jalmari Helander is known for his 2010 thriller Rare Exports, also starring Tommila as a boy who discovers an ancient and very evil Santa Claus. Four years later, with Big Game Helander has a sharper directorial eye, but the same sense of balance between serious filmmaking and some pretty absurd material. At the premiere’s Q&A, Helander explained that one of the toughest sequences to film involved a helicopter, Jackson trapped inside a freezer, and Tommila performing some impressive rustic parkour in order to set him free—if only because he wanted to keep a retro, low-fi feel to the action.
Tommila and Jackson are an unexpected but crowd-pleasing team, as the elder learns the value of not only acting tough, but being tough (“You have to be tough in Finland,” Oskari explains, which could be Helander’s own commentary on the current status of the U.S.). But supporting players are also perfect satires of themselves in the Pentagon, like Jim Broadbent as a way-too-casual CIA expert with a coffee mug and a Cosby sweater and Victor Garber as a way-too-dramatic Vice President that treats every word as its own sentence.
It might not seem like typical fare for Midnight Madness, but it does open up the programme for any film that isn’t afraid to take its genre to the extreme—which Big Game definitely does.