The main issue with Big Game is it feels fairly lightweight when you cut out the action sequences, and with the price of a family cinema ticket today, this is a big cause for concern in recommending it. The irony is, what with Helander’s great sweeping vistas of ‘Finnish’ forest (filmed in Germany), it is designed to be watched on a big screen.
Samuel L Jackson plays the President of the United States onboard Air Force One on route to a G8 Summit. After terrorists shoot the plane from the sky, first disabling its defences with the help from an inside man, the President lands in an NASA-style escape pod in the snowy Finnish wilderness. He is found by young Finn, 13-year-old Oskari (Onni Tommila) who is on a rights-of-passage hunt to kill his first stag deer. Oskari doesn’t know who he’s rescued but agrees the get the President to safety. They soon find out that the inside man and the terrorists are hunting the President as a trophy. Undeterred, Oskari realises he has a new mission in coming of age.
Writer-director Helander has his tongue firmly in cheek here – no surprise after the more serious-natured Rare Exports, just having some fun with his miniature hero. Things are very black and white, good and bad, and dumbed down to the point of patronisation, only rescued by the like-ability – and quaint ignorance of wider world issues – of Oskari. There are the common coming-of-age themes that the teens will latch onto. Tommila is a convincing starlet with a stoic resolve as the mini action hero which you can’t fault him on.
Jackson earns one of his easiest pay-checks yet – albeit with a bit of physical exertion, with his President being the complete opposite to Harrison Ford’s have-a-go President Marshall in Air Force One. Jackson resigns himself to the elements and a small boy with a bow and local know-how. Admittedly, for the younger generation, this is an exhilarating though that a powerful adult figure is taking orders from them.
Even enjoyable turns from Brit actors Ray Stevenson and Jim Broadbent as US secret service personnel – the latter with oddest American accent going – fail to inject greater buzz, though German actor Mehmet Kurtulus makes quite a sinister baddie as terrorist Hazar.
There are some thrilling escape scenes on a knife edge too, like the use of a chest freezer as a getaway vehicle, and the President and Oskari have fun bonding then running, then repeating this. That’s about the long and short of the thin plot that sounds appealing on paper.
Big Game aims big in action and heart-felt fun but is lacking in anything else. It has solid values on offer and is a great advert for simple living and visiting Finland’s countryside for ‘the oldies’ watching. Whether it justifies a family cinema outing because it feels ‘half empty’ in substance is the big question. After all, today’s 13-year-old has a raft of superhero films with all kinds of layered theories and back stories at the box office to choose from, so its retro content may not be enough to fully satisfy.