It’s not just upstart American and British directors who are getting a chance to try out for the big leagues on the basis of small, independent films brimming with creativity and it. Jalmari Helander’s 2010 darkly comic festive treat “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” brought the Finnish director international acclaim and while he hasn’t been plucked immediately to helm a mega-budget blockbuster, he’s probably had a greater freedom in delivering his sophomore feature film, “Big Game”.
Teenage would-be hunter Oskari (Onni Tommila) heads deep into the mountain forest, determined to prove himself a man to his father but instead of bagging a deer, he finds himself caught up in a terrorist plot to bring down Air Force One and capture or kill the President Of The United States.
Re-teaming with Onni Tommila is a winning move and the young actor delivers the goods again as the plucky and pugnacious hero and establishes a really sweet rapport with Samuel L Jackson’s bewildered and betrayed President.
It’s certainly a fast-paced ride, with a quiet, reflective opening quickly giving way to the action and adventure. There’s more than a hint of early Spielberg in the tone of this movie, with a few cheeky nods to Amblin classics, especially “E.T.” and it’s famous logo. But it repays any debts it might owe by generously knocking Indiana Jones down to number two in the ‘Most Unrealistic Survival In A Fridge’ stakes. The bad guys are moustache-twirlingly menacing without being sadistic and it’s fun to see fellow Marvel alum Ray Stevenson facing off against Jackson. Meanwhile the film packs a surprising amount of star power into its Pentagon situation room with Victor Gerber, Felicity Huffman, Ted Levine and even Jim Broadbent turning up to join the fun. Only Mehmet Kurtulus strikes a slightly too cartoony a note as a big game hunter from an unspecified Middle East country, replete with quasi-Nazi leather jacket and 1930’s style jodhpurs.
Action packed without being overly-violent, with language moderated to match (Samuel L Jackson’s most famous phrase does make an appearance, albeit tactically obscured by gunfire), this a spirited, enjoyable and, frankly, super-cute action adventure movie set against the New Zealand-rivalling landscape of Finland.