THE HOST (Andrew Niccol, 2013)
One things's for sure. Stephenie Meyer likes her love triangles.
Somewhere in THE HOST, we find ourselves watching a teenage love story involving (at least) three players and more than one kind of species. Seem familiar? That's because you've probably seen too much of the TWILIGHT saga, also by Stephenie Meyer, which is unless you've been living under a rock the past decade is barely news to you.
But give Andrew Niccol enough credit for making THE HOST an escapist entertainment that's not too cringe-worthy. There came a point in time while watching NEW MOON that I wanted to rip my seat from the floor and hurl it onto the screen.
THE HOST benefits from Niccol's adequate understanding of the subject matter, and his gifted writing skills that produced the likes of THE TRUMAN SHOW and GATTACA. There is a rich philosophical question in the midst of the story of which is the better race, humans or aliens, and the answer isn't clear-cut. On the irony of things, we see what humans do to the "souls" who inhabit human bodies later in the movie, perhaps as retaliation for the likes of the ruthless Seeker (Diane Kruger) or as means for survival. But when Wanderer (Saoirse Ronan), nicknamed Wanda witnesses this inhumane act, she brands us humans as murderers. Quickly the view of the situation isn't as plain as it seems to be.
Saoirse Ronan gives the best performance of her career since ATONEMENT. Now that she's all grown-up, her rendition of Melanie Stryder/ Wanda beckons us to consider her as a serious actress. In her character's soliloquy towards the end, Ronan compels us to watch and listen, and the camera stays still, revealing what a talent she really is.
Diane Kruger is also terrific as a ruthless alien named SEEKER, a performance that rivals her turn as a double agent in Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS which I've now only come to fully appreciate.
Screen veterans William Hurt (Jeb Stryder) and Frances Fisher (Maggie Stryder) who play Melanie's uncle and aunt lend strong supporting performances, while Max Irons as Jared and Jake Abel as Ian serve as eye-candy for the tween audience. I swear there are scenes in the movie (which may also be in the book) purposely inserted to make young girls blush and giggle, which is not necessarily a bad thing but somehow feels contrived. Then again, we only need to remember it's a material by Stephenie Meyer, the woman who popularized "emo" and made meadow dream sequences romantic.
The location, set in New Mexico, with seemingly endless desert and breathtaking mountainous formations is visually stunning, and in many ways sets the mood the story wants to convey.
You have to give it also for the production design. The aliens are always dressed in perfect white attires, their vehicles in stainless steel so much you can use them as solar panels. Such conveys perfection, the utopia that the human race is not. Meanwhile in the desert, a more western look is favored. The clothes fit the most on Williiam Hurt.
The ending however, feels forced and gimmicky, and the resolution wants to shove itself into our throats. "Okay, we get it, let's move on."
Luckily, Saoirse Ronan is too good to resist we are able to forgive the shortcomings of this movie.