Profound? Funny? Twisted? Welcome to the warped world of master storyteller George Saunders, whose short story is the basis for this futuristic prison film. Chris Hemsworth is Steve Abnesti, an ego-driven scientist administering mind-altering drugs to convicts who volunteer in exchange for shorter sentences.
“I was fascinated by the morality,” says Hemsworth, adding that his character has “a naivete about his actions.”
Abnesti’s experiments are conducted in a state-of-the-art penitentiary in which inmates wear a surgically attached device that administers the drugs. In Spiderhead, “there are no bars, no cells, or orange jumpsuits,” Netflix teases. “Incarcerated volunteers are free to be themselves. Until they’re not. At times, they’re a better version. Need to lighten up? There’s a drug for that. At a loss for words? There’s a drug for that, too.”
In the film, two subjects, Jeff (Miles Teller) and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), connect, but Abnesti’s experiments lead to what director Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick) calls a look at “free will and the nature of redemption.”
Hemsworth’s portrayal matches Saunders’ tale.
“We needed someone who could do the contrast between charm and darkness,” Kosinski says. “Chris responded to this character who could pull the rug out from under the audience.”
Spiderhead is based on The New Yorker short story by Saunders. It’s billed as a “genre-bending and darkly funny psychological thriller” and is written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Twisted Metal, Deadpool, Zombieland).
Spiderhead, Original Movie, Premieres, Friday, June 17, Netflix