Original release: March 29th, sovaldi sale 2013
Running time: 125 minutes
Director: Andrew Niccol
Writers: Andrew Niccol, Stephenie Meyer
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Frances Fisher, Chandler Canterbury, Diane Kruger, William Hurt
What would happen if all our chaos, insecurities and worries about ourselves, our future, our past and present could be eradicated? If it could all disappear and we could be left to live our lives trouble free, without ever having to think about illnesses, financial burdens and the violence that seems to have plagued humanity since our first appearance on this planet? Would we still be us, or would we lose something essential about ourselves in the process? The question isn’t an easy one to answer, and it’s one of those questions that when you start to think about it, it only leads to more questions about our nature, purpose and evolution.
Written by Stephenie Meyer and directed by Andrew Niccol, The Host turned out to be an entirely different film from what I initially expected, and this is mainly down to the poor marketing it received here in the UK and abroad. Keen to cash in on the Twilight Saga’s success, we’re lead to believe from the stills, trailers, posters and clips that it’s nothing more than a teenage romance with a helpless damsel in distress torn between two potential suitors when in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. After opening with a monologue spoken by Jeb (William Hurt) we immediately get a sense of why the story’s actual content might’ve been played down:
“The earth is at piece. There is no hunger. There is no violence. The environment is healed. Honesty, courtesy, kindness are practiced by all. Our world has never been more perfect. Only, it is no longer our world. We’ve been invaded by an alien race. They occupy the bodies of almost all human beings on the planet. The few humans who have survived are on the run.”
This dialogue sets the stage perfectly and The Host goes on to tell us about a time when an alien race arrives on Earth to take over bodies, erasing our humanity and replacing our consciousness, making us into a more caring and peaceful civilization that’s capable of looking after the planet they inhabit. The humans have no choice in the matter, and while the aliens have managed to take over the majority of the world’s population, there are pockets of resistance fighters here and there. That’s when we meet Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), her younger brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and Jared (Max Irons). The trio have so far managed to escape being turned into hosts.
Melanie is determined to keep the small parasitic aliens, called “Souls”, at bay, but ends up getting captured so she can save Jamie. When she’s subjected to the procedure of having a Soul injected into her, surprising her consciousness remains intact and fights for control of her body with a Soul called “Wanderer. These scenes are fascinating to watch, though at first they’re a bit jarring because we see Saoirse Ronan acting as two different characters in the same body. While Wanderer tries to comply with all of Seeker’s (Diane Kruger) requests to access Melanie’s memories in order to discover the location of a pocket of non-assimilated humans, Melanie urges her not to do it. Gradually, Wanderer beings to feel an affiliation with this human but still remains a bit hesitant to go all the way and help her save the ones she cares about.
With a bit of forcing and placing one foot in front of the other, Melanie gets Wanderer out of the facility where she’s being held, but no sooner than they’re out, they’re already being pursued by the slightly obsessed Seeker who begins displaying negative traits that are more associated with humans than her own alien species. Meeting up with Jared, they also encounter a group of humans living in hiding, among them are Jeb and Jamie, but as someone who’s been taken over by a Soul, Wanderer is met with violence and hostility and Melanie doesn’t her tell them she’s still alive in her body.
The juxtaposition between the futuristic look of the world the Souls have created for themselves and the pilgrim-like way the surviving humans live, relying on harvests, is one of the many things that makes The Host an interesting film to watch. Niccol’s direction is sensitive towards the story, something that’s apparent in all his films, from Gattaca (1997) all the way through to In Time (2011). There’s an atmosphere carried throughout, and together with an exceptional performance by Saoirse, I have to say, it’s terribly sad this film was savaged by “critics” and ignored by audiences. The only thing that let it down was its tagged on ending which felt forced, as if they needed to hint at it becoming a franchise. Like with Prometheus (2012), another misunderstood film, it just wasn’t necessary.
As a story that forces us to ask questions about what makes us who we are, it’s no wonder Niccol chose to direct it, as he’s dealt with these themes several times before. Both intelligent and entertaining, The Host wasn’t what I expected and those who are quick to slate it based on what they might’ve heard might want to reconsider their position, not just on this film, but the countless others they’ve done the same too.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .