Under the Skin Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 12, 2015
Having been a fan of both Sexy Beast and the underrated Birth, I was happy to hear that Jonathan Glazer's third directorial outing would be an adaptation of a Michael Faber popular science fiction novel of the same name. Also (as a Glaswegian myself) I was even more intrigued to hear that this forthcoming story would be set primarily in Glasgow. I was interested in how the city and it's inhabitants would be depicted and I have to admit that Glazer's decision to do so, has paid dividends.

A mysterious, and otherworldly, woman (Scarlett Johansson) arrives in Scotland where she wanders and drives around with the intention of seducing lonely men. The encounters she has, lead her to question her own existence as she strives for some meaning to her life and those around her.

Did I hear anyone say Species? Of course, those who are familiar with Roger Donaldson's 1995, B-movie Sci-Fi will undoubtedly make comparisons with the premise of Glazer's third outing but the film itself actually shares more in common with the originality of Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film, The Man Who Fell To Earth. However, these films are mentioned in the same breath for very good reason as Under The Skin feels, somewhat, like the love child of Natasha Henstridge and David Bowie. Scarlett Johansson's unnamed extra-terrestrial has the same man-devouring intentions as Henstridge while director Jonathan Blazer has an uncanny knack for Roeg's ethereal qualities. It could also be pointed out that Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch in 1980 could have had an influence in utilising the grim and gloomy Glasgow locations for a sombre, science fiction mood piece.

It's has a hugely experimental approach to filmmaking but one that's entirely fitting to the films themes of isolation and understanding. Many Glasgow residents were filmed in secret (signing a disclaimer afterwords to be included in the final cut) and it's this secret filming that adds an authenticity to their behaviour and allows us to see ourselves through the eyes of another entity. In this case, it's almost a stroke of genius to have the often indecipherable Glaswegians as the focus of this alien being's intentions. Many don't understand the Glaswegian dialect or idiom and even though I completely understood what they were saying, I can only assume that many viewers wouldn't quite grasp it the same way. Maybe I'm wrong but I often get the impression that the colloquialisms of the city do seem alien to people. I could even sense that Johansson herself didn't know what they were saying at times but this only added the distance between her and the supporting characters. No one does anything of particular note but it's their mundane existence that Johansson's character finds interesting and it adds a rather captivating edge when seen through her eyes. Few, if any, science fiction films have managed to capture this concept or observation so well and it's this that lends the film a true originality that bypasses the B-movie shlock of Species and comfortably finds it's path on Roeg-ish territory.

That being said, Under the Skin can, at times, be a tough watch and will certainly not appeal to those that who prefer to be spoonfed their science fiction. There's a leisurely pace and the foreboding music score by Mica Levi and brilliantly bleak cinematography by Daniel Landin only add to the overall sense of dread and depression. The entire point of it all in creating and conveying a distance is also the very approach that could leave many a viewer struggling to find any enjoyment. It's also a role for Johansson that will 'alienate' many of her fans but those who are patient and appreciate art-house cinema will be richly rewarded.

Much like the lure Johansson has over her male counterparts, the film itself lures you into a meditative frame of mind and refuses to let go. Some may see it as pretentious but whether or not you grasp itâ??s existential ponderingâ??s, thereâ??s still no denying itâ??s mesmerising mood. Bold filmmaking and quite unlike anything else from 2014.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2014
An indescribably odd surreal acid trip of a movie concerning an alien (Scarlett Johansson) who comes to Earth, in Glasgow, Scotland to be precise, and proceeds to seduce men back to her place so that they can be swallowed into a vast pool of black liquid. What sounds like a bad monster movie from the 50's is anything but, as director Jonathan Glazier combines the likes of Kubrick, Lynch, and Von Trier to create one beast of a movie about sex, society, and perhaps most importantly, beauty in simple things. The performance by Johansson is perhaps the greatest of her stellar career, as she creates a character that can seem utterly lifeless and devoid of any basic human emotions one minute, to charming and irresistible the next moment. This is without question one of the weirdest films I have ever viewed, and one that I struggled to figure out if I completely admired or despised. The fact that this is such a polarizing picture, combined with the subtle messages that can be easily lost amidst the dreamlike nature and atmosphere it possesses during its running time, convinced me that this is truly a great film. It will get under your skin, and stay there long after, and for that reason, this movie accomplishes what it aims to do.
Super Reviewer
December 25, 2014
Very interesting movie. Struggled initially as it is not the most accessible or easy film, but I did come to like it. Scottish setting is great and I loved all the street shots.
Very challenging role for Scarlett Johansson as she doesn't speak a lot and for most of the movie she does have to be poker faced. Hers is not the most likeable character, but as she evolved I did care what happened to her.
Not a movie to spell anything out, a lot is open to your own interpretation.
I didn't realise it was based on a book and I am quite interested to read it.
Super Reviewer
September 21, 2014
The reality is that it's a polarizing film. Those that turned it off halfway through are completely justified in doing so. It's not for everyone, even those with good movie taste. So when I say that Under the Skin is a virtually flawless film, a masterpiece of sci-fi, horror, and filmmaking in general, this is an opinion I know that not everyone will share. The shooting style adds uniqueness, realism, and depth to the scenario and I thought it was astoundingly brilliant. The music is eerie. The imagery is haunting. I love this movie because it reminds me of the days when Hollywood made unconventional blockbusters. It shows a side of Scarlett that we have never seen before (and I'm not talking about her being full nude, I'm talking about her performance). This is a film that has a lot of emotion while not exactly expressing it. It feels raw. And it takes chances.
I was fascinated from the opening frame. Yes, it's a weird movie. But it's one of those weird movies I will revisit over the years. And yet, I can't recommend this film to everyone. Even for the most open minded of audiences, the film can be off putting. I just don't consider that a bad thing.
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2014
A harrowing and intensely atmospheric science fiction of seductive visuals and powerful dissonant music, suggesting thought-provoking ideas and meanings about what lies underneath the appearances and what makes us humans, including fear, melancholy and emptiness.
Super Reviewer
March 28, 2014
Easy with time, and methodically (it does take awhile), yet ultimately interestingly, this film looks in on that old adage about travel broadening the mind as a visitor to a foreign locale (Scotland), only there on business, finds herself beginning to pick up some of the local customs against even her own will.
Scarlett Johansson solidly continues her climb to Hollywood's upper reaches by taking on this indie introspection on the complicit danger when staying anywhere foreign too long.
Go native.
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2014
An alien engaged in a process of capturing and cataloguing human beings embarks on a journey to understand what it means to be human. Scarlett Johansson flexes her indie credentials in this low budget British film that does its utmost to resist the pigeon hole. Part dark sci-fi, part metaphorical human drama, the first act is Invasion Of The Body Snatchers by David Lynch and the second a kind of Cronenberg-esque reinterpretation of Starman. Under The Skin attempts to be a mirror held up to humanity, inviting the viewer to re-examine what it is to be human and how we perceive each other. Johansson's alien is initially unquestioning in her role, using her appearance as a honey trap to entice an assortment of all-too-willing men into her collection. But when she encounters a man suffering from a physical deformity who needs and experiences genuine affection, she undergoes a catharsis that leads her to begin a journey of self discovery. The finale is a meditation on sexual identity and self when this newly learned feeling of intimacy actually means something and suddenly becomes something of value not to be violated or taken from her. A cynic may point out that the plot is little more than one of those scenes in Star Trek when a soft-focussed alien hottie in a beehive says to Shatner "What is this Earth thing you call love...?" and it does share Crononberg's penchant for cold detachment meaning that the story fails to engage on an emotional level. However some striking imagery and an interesting and thought provoking script makes Under The Skin transcend the limitations of its genre to create something rather unique.
Super Reviewer
½ April 6, 2014
Critically this film did very well thanks to veiled symbolism, stunning visual effects, and the wonky background music, inspired by its alien protagonist. This film was very loosely adapted from the novel of the same name, and remains deliberately murky throughout, relying more on its visual aesthetic than its plot. We do not know the name of our heroine, or why she is doing what she does, but it's very clear from what we see onscreen that she is otherworldly, misanthropic, and wants to integrate into our society; or at least emphasizes with it. Johansson's performance is nearly wordless, and often she plays the alien as a seductive and yet bland protagonist. The final third of the film is the only section where we see any character development, or any plot development for that matter, and by the end there are a lot of questions left unanswered. Tonally it hits its mark, and the visuals are simply astounding, making it very easy for me to speculate that sci-fi could veer even further towards this norm in the coming years. As a whole I found much of this to be uneven and incredibly uncomfortable to watch, merely for the fact that the events are intentionally misconfigured to alienate the audience. I am both fascinated by the way this story was constructed, and left sullen by the fact that there was no story to begin with.
Super Reviewer
½ March 8, 2014
My thoughts on 'Under the Skin' somewhat reflect its lead character: beautiful to look at, but what makes it fascinating is what you find within.
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2014
This film is abstract, slow-paced, bizarre, and altogether interesting. This is no Species. But I had such high expectations and, unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to them. I can see Under the Skin being frustrating for those who require explanations, for this film offers none.

When I read Michel Faber's book, it haunted me for weeks. In this film they have stripped away much of the plot, leaving only the bare essentials. You could say that the same applies to the dialogue and the score as well, the latter of which is masterfully sparse and eerie.

The fact that most of the men are non-actors and the conversations unscripted adds a startling sense of realism to the film, the likes of which I have never seen in a sci-fi or horror film before. The surreality is still always there, gnawing at the back of your head.

I cannot believe there are people out there who complain that "nothing happens" whenever Isserley - or Laura, as she is apparently called in this film - lures her victims to their demise, because for me, those were the most intense moments in the entire film.
Super Reviewer
August 2, 2014
Eh... it gets a bit monotonous after a while.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2014
feminist sci-fi?
art house b-movie?
someone said something about this being the ultimate film about loneliness?


it was a discombobulating sensual experience like few others
Super Reviewer
½ April 30, 2014
One of the most unique and engaging movies I've seen in years, Under the Skin is not for everyone. The film is deliberately paced and slowly reveals its simple, but utterly engrossing plot until the last moment. Scarlet Johansson gives an excellent performance. She is the only real actor/actress in the entire movie and carries it on her shoulders. There's sparse dialogue here and there throughout and its incredibly interesting to watch the interactions between characters and Scarlet. It gives the film a sense of verisimilitude that would otherwise be lacking in an unrealistic science fiction story. There's not much else to say without giving vital information away, but if you like thoughtful and potent science fictions films that are genuinely creepy and don't mind a little bit of a slog, this is absolutely worth watching. It kept me thinking long after the credits stopped rolling.
Super Reviewer
½ July 8, 2014
Bizarre and enthralling are two of the best words to describe this spectacle. Notice how I do not use the word film here, because it is much more than that. The filmmakers behind this film are almost too smart, hiding the actually plot in the back of your mind as you watch engaging visuals. As we follow a woman who is seducing men, you really think the film is going to get even darker by the end, and it does, but definitely not in the way you would expect. "Under the Skin" is s surprisingly unnerving feat that I would recommend to any film fanatic out there, but I do not think it will appeal to anyone who is not willing to think hard about what they are watching. Scarlett Johanssen is fantastic and I actually felt dirty watching this picture. With breathtaking visuals and a very clever way of telling this story, "Under the Skin" is one of my favourite films of 2014.
Super Reviewer
June 29, 2014
Brilliant Science Fiction dramatic thriller, Under The Skin is a well crafted film that boasts some stunning performances and has a very good concept, and story. In the lead role is Scarlett Johansson, who has improved a lot in recent years. Here she delivers one of her strongest performances of her career, and it really compliments the eerie, dark tone of the film. This terrific science fiction, and like The Machine, is a creative and memorable addition to the genre where a filmmaker takes a somewhat simplistic idea and makes it into something truly wonderful and entertaining. With Under The Skin we have a movie that works very well due to exceptional direction, acting and storytelling. The result is impressive and satisfying. This is a film that is effective in how it sets things up, and if you love a deeply detailed picture that keeps you o9n the edge of your seat right up to the very end, then you might want to give this film a view. This is a well crafted affair that takes risks, reinvents the genre and is a film that delivers a good two hours of solid entertainment, and with a blistering performance by Johansson, Under The Skin is an accomplished genre film that will surely delight genre fans. Like I said, this is a film that is dark, atmospheric and sometimes eerie, and it makes the film what it is. I enjoy a good science fiction film, and this is among the most memorable genre films in recent memory. The film isn't flawless, but it's smart enough to offer something new and intricate and will appeal to viewers looking for a well acted, plotted picture to grab your attention.
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2014
'Under the Skin'. Singular, seductive, striking sci-fi. Wow to the score, cinematography and Johansson's all-consuming presence.
Super Reviewer
April 23, 2014
Disguised as a human female, an alien seduces (and "collects") lonely males in Scotland. The story drags at times, especially in the final act, but the hallucinatory scenes are elegantly trippy and well worth the price of admission. Scarlett Johansson's nude scenes don't hurt.
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