I have been a fan of Nacho Vigalondo’s ever since seeing Timecrimes back in 2008, and to be perfectly honest, while he’s been at the helm of several other impressive projects, nothing had tickled my cinematic fancies quite like his time travel horror/science fiction mash-up. That is, until I saw Colossal, which is easily Vigalondo’s most ambitious effort to date. A thoughtful and ingenious creature feature that raises the bar for modern monster movies, Colossal is now an early front-runner for one of my favorite films of the year.
Vigalondo begins his latest film with a flashback to 25 years prior, when a skyscraper-sized monstrosity mysteriously appears out of nowhere in Seoul, South Korea. Colossal then heads back to the present day, as Gloria (Anne Hathaway) stumbles home in the early morning hours after another night of partying, much to the disapproval of her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens). He orders Gloria out of his apartment, leading her to retreat to her parents’ old house to try and get her life on track again. As she returns to her hometown, Gloria reconnects with an old friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who runs a bar in town and offers her a job.
Thinking she’s finally making progress in becoming a real adult, Gloria is disturbed to discover that her arrival back home is somehow linked to the giant monster in that has now reappeared in South Korea. She must confront her own demons in an effort to finally quell the beast ravaging the cityscape thousands of miles away.
Throughout his career, Vigalondo has always given us his own boldly audacious viewpoint and Colossal is no different, as the subject matter here is met with the filmmaker’s wink and smile, with Nacho focusing on the humor of Gloria’s unfortunate circumstances and making them into an allegory for the irresponsibility that comes from reckless drinking and other detrimental behaviors.
While Colossal takes its premise very seriously, the script is peppered with an immense amount of humor (and heart), and Vigalondo’s cast handles the tonal shifts in the material with the greatest of ease. Hathaway, someone who I’ve enjoyed immensely over the years, truly gives one of the best performances we’ve ever seen from her in Colossal. Her vulnerable and messy portrayal of Gloria is ripened with a palpable sense of conflict, particularly in the film’s third act that sees Gloria emotionally (and in some ways almost literally) pushed into a corner, forcing the film’s heroine to finally grow up and take responsibility for what her actions have wrought both in her own life and the lives of those over in Seoul.
Sudeikis, though, is the biggest surprise for me in Colossal. His turn as Oscar, a helpful-friend-turned-smug-abuser, which becomes an even bigger threat to Gloria than her own destructive vices, is downright revelatory as the Saturday Night Live alum proves that he can easily handle dramatic material just as effortlessly as he can tackle comedic projects. Kudos to Vigalondo for recognizing Sudeikis’ talents in Colossal, and I hope this leads to more opportunities like this for him in the future.
In terms of the monsters in Colossal, without giving too much away about Vigalondo’s approach, I likened them to how Guillermo del Toro handled the forest god that Prince Nuada unleashes in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. There’s a grace to how Vigalondo brings his oversized creatures to life here, and the way he cleverly infuses them with a sense of personality (there’s more to it, but I feel like expanding on that idea ruins some of the film’s magic) makes Colossal one of those rare monster movies that is so much more than watching giants ravage yet another urban area just for entertainment’s sake.
Despite the sometimes grand scale Colossal plays its narrative out upon, there’s also a rare kind of intimacy in how Vigalondo comes at the human aspects of his story, making his latest not only a cinematic marvel, but also a deeply affecting drama as well. Very few directors’ work consistently defies genre conventions the way that Vigalondo’s has over the years, and Colossal is yet another example of his wondrous and boundary-pushing imagination. Couple that with a pair of brilliant performances from Hathaway and Sudeikis, and Colossal stomped its way right into my heart. I don’t think I could have possibly loved it any more than I did.
Movie Score: 4.5/5