The Host Movie Review
While the premise of this sci-fi thriller feels like yet another of Stephenie Meyer's two-boys-one-girl fantasies, a superior writer-director and cast make this is a stronger film than Twilight. The plot may be rather contrived, but the actors bring out some sharp intelligence in the script to make it surprisingly involving.
It's set in a future time after aliens have snatched the bodies of 90 percent of humanity, eliminating hunger, crime and the environmental crisis. But secret pockets of rebels have avoided being possessed by these white mini-jellyfish beings, and are seeking ways to fight back. So when the alien being Wanderer is implanted in the resistance leader Melanie (Ronan), the head Seeker (Kruger) hopes to infiltrate her memories and find out where they're hiding. But Melanie is stronger than anyone thinks, managing to remain conscious alongside Wanderer, winning her to the rebel cause. She heads to the human's secret desert hideout, where Uncle Jeb (Hurt) renames her Wanda and accepts her into the fold. But some humans aren't so sure, and the Seeker is hot on her trail.
It's deep in this maze of rather too-sophisticated caves that the crinkled romance develops, as Melanie is reunited with her boyfriend Jared (Irons), but doesn't want him kissing her when Wanda is in control of her body. Then Wanda falls for Ian (Abel), and their kissing makes Melanie even more furious. Yes, like Twilight, this film seems to think that kissing is the ultimate expression of human connection, giving this film a quirky four-sided love triangle at its centre. Meanwhile, the more thriller-like plotline builds as the Seeker gets ever closer. All of this is played out very seriously, with almost no offhanded humour or humanity, but the emotions are intriguingly resonant.
This is largely due to Ronan and Hurt, who invest much more than we expect into their roles. Kruger is great at being relentless, while Irons and Abel fill the interchangeable hunk roles adeptly, but we never really worry about them much because bigger things are at stake. Writer-director Niccol keeps the film moody and smart, creating the future with cool imagery and shiny surfaces rather than fussy digital effects. Every sequence is beautifully shot to make the most of the epic landscapes and swoony kissing conundrum. And while we begin to doubt that the filmmakers will be brave enough to end the film on a complex note, we remain fairly assured that some clever twist will resolve things in a satisfying way.