Big Game (2014)

(Netflix Streaming, December 2016) Now here is a pleasant surprise: an honest big-budget slam-bang action thriller featuring iconic images about the American Presidency, coming from… Finland. What? Well, yes. Thanks to the magic of special effects, global financing, location shooting and well-paid actors, even Finland is able to put together the kind of movie that Hollywood wishes it could make. Big Game’s premise is absurdly simple (Air Force One is sabotaged and brought down deep in Finland’s forests—only a boy can help the President escape his pursuers) but it works, largely because writer/director Jalmari Helander is willing to go big and bold on his images and action sequences. It does help that the film can rely on Samuel L. Jackson as a curiously cowardly president, and Jim Broadbent as an oracle of truth with a hidden agenda (his last scene is fantastic). But when the film shows Air Force One crashing into a lake, or being ripped apart by its auto-destruction mechanism, or the President running in the woods like hunted prey, or a heliborne freezer slamming through a forest, this is the kind of action movie iconography that Hollywood has unexplainably abandoned lately. No wonder if Big Game works so splendidly well once it firmly engages into its first act: It plays the action movie Hollywood game better than Hollywood itself, and keeps piling up the cool stuff. It’s unabashedly a thriller and it doesn’t try to be anything else. As such, it’s a success … and it’s too bad that a lot of American filmgoers won’t even hear of it.

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