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Big Game

Big Game

Released 7 May 2015
Director Jalmari Helander

Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Mehet Kurtulus, Ted Levine, Jorma Tommila, Risto Salmi, Felicity Huffman
Writer(s) Jalmari Helander

Will Clarke, Petri Jokiranta, Andy Mayson, Jens Meurer

Finland, United Kingdom, Germany
Running Time 110 minutes
Genre Action, adventure
Rating 12A

Game for a laugh.

Big Game is the kind of film that we don’t see much of these days - a family friendly action film that doesn’t have the word Marvel attached to it. Despite the cursory nods toward the twenty-first century (satellite technology and a thinly veiled ‘lame-duck’ presidency), its gung-ho spirit and joyfully wacky action are a callback to the period in the mid ‘80s to ‘90s during which child-led action adventure was big business.

We meet Oskari (Onni Tommila) on the eve of his thirteenth birthday. In his rural Finnish community, this is the age at which every male child must go into the forest alone to hunt, returning the next morning to be proclaimed a man. Although his father is a renowned hunter, Oskari can barely fire an arrow. Alone and dejected in the forest, Oskari witnesses a plane crash; Air Force One has been shot down and the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson) is alone in the wilderness, being hunted by a group of terrorists. Keen to prove his bravery, Oskari vows to protect the President and lead him through the forest to safety.

You may know director Jalmari Helander for his delightfully odd first feature Rare Exports (2010), a film that played with the darker elements of the Nordic myth of Santa Claus. Big Game may represent a graduation to the dizzy heights of the A-list cast but thankfully, the wicked sense of humour we saw in Rare Exports has remained intact. Even as the action becomes ever more improbable (both of the leads must have nine lives judging by the amount of abuse they survive), we are drawn along with it thanks to a fun, sparky script and the performances of an appealing double act. Tommila and Jackson share an on-screen affection that feels genuine - their quieter moments together are sweet as pie, while their action scenes are pleasingly unhinged.

It’s not all sweetness and light of course but to be honest, I was too much in a haze of rosy nostalgia to care that much. The visuals veer unevenly between beautifully shot landscapes and pretty ropey CGI but I found that these little technical inadequacies only added to the ramshackle charm of it all. If you fancy a trip down movie memory lane, you will enjoy this throwback to simpler times, when a young kid could take on insurmountable odds and avoid certain death thanks to a bit of dumb luck and a well-timed pun.

- Linda O’Brien