Jalmari Helander's action flick Big Game will hit Blu-ray today. We have had a look at the Blu-ray release which may be sparse in added features but the sole feature, an Unrated Version with an extra five minutes of footage, is definitely worth your time.
Hopefully you know the story of Big Game by now. The Samuel L. Jackson is President Moore who is on the way to a summit when Air Force One is shot down over Finland. A young boy Oskari is out in the woods for his rite of passage, a solo hunting trip, and he finds the President first. Together they escape from those hunting the President down.
To call it the Unrated Version suggests that there is something in the additional footage that was maybe too racy to make the cut for the American screens. In general the new scenes of any Unrated Version could have contained anything from violence to nudity to language that was cut from an original theatrical version. Unrated does not mean any one particular trait, it just means the footage not rated by the MPAA. But it is used as a selling point for particular genres to suggest something else. More so in horror films than any other genre. Thankfully Anchor Bay has not splashed UNRATED VERSION all over the cover of their release.
So what makes up this extra five minutes? Incredibly, all of the young lad Oskari's character development and personal story is what makes up the difference in the run time. From this writer's perspective, that is awesome, because Oskari should be the focus of this film. All the time. This kid is the gosh-darned hero of the film. In the Unrated Version it is a good ten minutes before POTUS even appears on screen. After that pretty much nothing else has been added to the film. No extended action scenes or gratuity to the violence. Sorry.
I could be snarky about this and say things like, "So then, the development of a character other than POTUS is too racy for the American audience". Or, "the idea of a 13 year old boy fantasizing about killing a deer is too racy for the American audience". Or, "POTUS saying 'Motherfucker' is too racy for the American audience". But I suppose those last two could have been cut to lower the MPAA rating to PG-13 so more family members could have gone to see Big Game in the cinema.
I related one of these omitted scenes to feature critic Jason Gorber who saw Big Game at TIFF last year and we came to the conclusion that perhaps this Unrated Version was the same version shown at the festival. There also is not much else that can be said about the film that he says in his own review from last September.
The best thing you can say about Big Game is that it feels like one of those ideas that feels like it should have been done long ago, like the crafting of a beautiful pop song you feel like you've heard your entire life. Yet the film, at the same time, feels totally fresh, a welcome addition to a Midnight slate that can usually feel a bit dreary and morbid.
Big Game does it all - you've got a great cast going at it full bore, some exotic locales shot extremely well, and a delightfully compact storyline that never overstays its welcome. Helander further establishes himself as a genre director to be contended with. Missiles are flung (in both the archery and guided variety), battles are played out, and there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout.
If I were to add anything to this I would say that it definitely has that Amblin-esque quality to it. I wonder if Helander was intentionally giving the nod when he put a red jacket on Oskari and wrapped a blanket around President Moore as they rode into their first clear night together after the stupendous plane crash sequence. A little bit of Elliot/E.T. nodding and winking going on there? They did not go past a full moon but you got the idea.
The lighting of the escape capsule landing site is superb and has to be a nod to Spielberg. The inspired shot sequence when Agent Morris free-falls from the back of Air Force One and the five surface to air missiles whip past him and into the clouds and hit their targets, illuminating the clouds? Just an excellent shot and it leads to really great visuals throughout the rest of the film.
But overall, buy the movie Big Game because it is simply a great action film. Then do yourself a favor and watch this so-called Unrated Version first. Your appreciation of Oskari will grow because of it.
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