Regardless of whether or not you actually enjoy Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal, you can’t deny how completely, and uniquely absurd it is, unlike anything else you’ll have seen in a good long while. The director gets it tonally spot-on too, gloriously self-aware and deliciously playful, and yet all the while taking itself just seriously enough to be perceived on more dramatic terms. You’ll also just wish you were in the room when this idea came into fruition.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, recently broken up with by her English boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), who is fed up with her persistent drinking and inability to take life seriously. In a bid to get her head together she heads back to her old family home, where she is instantly recognised by an old school friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who offers her a job at his bar. No less than a day in the job and suddenly the entire world is shaken by the incredible footage of a ginormous monster wreaking havoc on the streets of Seoul. And then something even crazier happens, as Gloria realises that she is the monster, and if she stands in a certain place in the local park, what she does, the monster then imitates. In one hand she holds a beer, in the other, the fate of the planet’s entire existence. Then a robot comes into the equation.
In spite of the sheer inanity of the narrative, the film works as the actors play the parts so deadpan, as though this is all entirely normal. This is emblematic of a film which balances realism with surrealism in a remarkable fashion, steeped in the former – grounded by an opening act focusing solely on relatable human themes such as jealously and self-deprecation, stemming from a relationship breaking up and the coming to terms with alcoholism. Then when Vigalondo hits us with the insanity, we’re already on board and ready to go along with the ride. Even beyond this point the film moves seamlessly between the overstated, ridiculous idea of there being a monster killing real people, effectively controlled by a drunk waitress in America – and the dynamic between Gloria and Oscar, which exists in a more naturalistic environment.
Sudeikis is great in the role, subverting expectations given he’s a performer renowned primarily for his comedic tendencies – but here he displays a darkness which is imperative to the film working, so agonisingly intense at times. Such intensity is also enforced by the fact the stakes are so high, as people are genuinely dying in Seoul, and the world has almost stood still – all while we’re stuck in this small-town bubble concerning these two individuals.
The problem is, with a concept of this nature, which thrives in its inclination to do whatever it wants really, the viewer still requires a sense of closure, to be given answers to the myriad of questions we have. And it’s here the film struggles, unable, unsurprisingly, to quite tie the loose ends together and let the audience provide a semblance of logic to everything we’ve just sat through. Still, it’s pretty good fun along the way.
Colossal is released on May 19th