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134 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A future cult classic
Under The Skin

Imagine that you condensed the plot of a novel down to a single sentence.

Now ignore half of that sentence and make a film of the result.

This seems to have part of the ten year creative process in turning Michel Faber’s novel into Jonathan Glazer’s film.

The resulting film is both haunting and...
Published 11 months ago by Steve Cook

versus
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like it but fascinating none the less
Under the Skin was not my thing at all, it was dark, very obscure and there was,quite deliberately, no attempt to explain what is going on or why. What I understood from it is that Scarlett's character was an alien being who as she spent more time disguised as one of us grew to understand and perhaps sympathize with us as a species, as a result going from dominant...
Published 4 months ago by Charles G.


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134 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A future cult classic, 1 April 2014
This review is from: Under The Skin [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Under The Skin

Imagine that you condensed the plot of a novel down to a single sentence.

Now ignore half of that sentence and make a film of the result.

This seems to have part of the ten year creative process in turning Michel Faber’s novel into Jonathan Glazer’s film.

The resulting film is both haunting and beautiful, contrasting the grit and reality of Glasgow with the isolated emptiness of the Scottish countryside and a clinical hyper-stylised ‘alien’ lair.

The lair scenes and the opening sequence, especially, are reminiscent of Kubrick’s interpretation of Arthur C Clarke’s ‘2001’ whilst the overall feeling is similar to David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, the awkward outsider who struggles to understand this human world.

Whilst much has been made of the use of real people as victims it’s Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of the seductress, Laura, hunting down lonely men for unspeakable reasons that will stay with the viewer, her understated beauty and unease perfect for the character of Laura but so different from the novel’s awkward, surgically deformed protagonist Isserley.

Book and film stand apart, and the good news is that experiencing neither would affect the enjoyment of the other so different are the storylines but I can’t help thinking that the film lacked a lot in explanation although it more than made up for this with style.

If anything the book is probably darker than the film condemning everything from big business to factory farming and exploring the idea of class through an alien culture. The film touches on none of these themes and the viewer could easily be left wondering what it was all about.

Undoubtedly a masterpiece of the cinematic art, thought provoking and disturbing, ‘Under The Skin’ won’t trouble any box office charts but it will become a cult favourite.

If you’re intrigued enough by the film reading the book would explain a lot, just don’t expect to recognise too much of the story between it’s pages.
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67 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a captivating film - but a divisive film that is not for everyone's tastes, 19 July 2014
By 
Susman "Sussman" (London Mills IL) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Possible Spoilers

This is a film that has taken nearly 10 years for Director Jonathan Glazer to bring to the big screen, and had Glazer and his crew guerrilla filming north of the Scottish border. Adapted from Michel Faber's novel of the same name, the film discards virtually all of the book's `landscape' and the irony of commercial farming. The story of Scarlett Johansson's extra-terrestrial entity begins with an enigmatic "birth" sequence from another dimension or other-world. There are faint glimmers of speech hummed through a distorted fog of sound. Then vocalizations repeat and develop and it becomes clear that they're consonants, then syllabic sounds, and finally whole words. The manner in which these enunciations acquiesce into speech is matched by sight of an abstract image of light and a circular shape, which ultimately - in the most intangible way - then reveal a human eye.

The alien is then transported to Scotland's grey, rainy streets of what appears to be Glasgow and it - she - has a minder or a `familiar' for back-up support, he wears made-to-measure leathers and rides a R1 Yamaha motorbike. He acquires for her a dead human girl salvaged from the roadside. Or perhaps this is another expired alien whose shape is being reused? Whatever the case may be, our alien is soon up and running in her white Mercedes Sprint Transit - she then prowls the Highlands Lowlands. There is succinct plainspoken interconnectivity between Johansson and men who think she's just a lost lass from South of the border. She comes over as sultry and tempting, with her innocent disarming smile that could be read as being coquettish. However, the alien has one single minded purpose, to sexually entice wide-eyed males who can't trust to their good luck and are quite right not to do so. A film that at times emulates a style of documentary filmmaking; where it combines improvisation, with the use of the camera to expose truth or highlight subjects concealed behind crude realism.

The only sign that the alien is leading men to be harvested for nourishment (but for who or what we are never told) is in an unnerving sequence that shows the sufferers of her seduction. For me Johansson is nothing short of hypnotic in the role as the alien and plays it so very well. There is so little vocal narrative; there are snatches of isolated dialogue. Yet there is a discernible narrative to follow - we see this through the eyes of the alien and a montage of ominous images. The scenes where her would be victims are taken (and finally processed and dispatched into their bare constituents) are astonishing and chilling. All the buildings she uses, as portals to her lair, are derelict and in decay - and yet her unwitting victims follow her into the black 'inky' void. Then of course is the film's extraordinary score, by Mica Levi, which furnishes our predatory alien with her three-note Siren's call. Here then is a real marriage between Levi's score and celluloid. For me this is a captivating film, but a divisive film, that is not for everyone's tastes as you either love it or hate it.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, Intelligent & Unique, 7 Aug. 2014
By 
Mr. C. Gelderd "aka GelNerd" (Basingstoke, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This is one of those films where I am struggling to give it a star rating. On one hand it could be a 2 star film, but easily it could be a 4 star film. It may even be a 5 star film. I’ve never experienced a film so haunting, so simple but so surreal and thoughtful in its narrative and cinematography that it becomes engrossing and uncomfortable to watch at the same time.

Scarlett Johansson simply carries the film (much like Tom Hardy did recently in another character driven film ‘Locke’), and you can’t take your eyes off her. She has little dialogue and conveys her emotion via her physical appearance. She is an actress capable of entertaining masses in action blockbusters or dreamy rom-coms but proving her also a grounded understanding of what it means to strip away the excess of Hollywood escapism and portray one of the most complex, realistic-cum-fantastical and haunting characters in her career to date. Her natural beauty is also something you can’t fail to admire, and that plays to her strength as a seductive being out for more sinister goals. She takes us on an emotional journey through a range of emotions and ultimately we can’t fail to finally warm to her, feel compassion for her and understand her.

Saying that, the supporting cast of largely unknown UK faces (bar possibly pro motorcyclist Jeremy McWilliams) add to the look and feel of this film greatly, giving it lots of authenticity. It plays out almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary on the streets of Scotland, with improvised dialogue between the actors and Johansson for a very natural process of seduction. They are brave actors who take on full frontal nudity in nightmarish situations and they help make Johansson’s character all the more mysterious as the fish out of water in Scotland.

It’s a very beautiful film to watch with long, lingering shots across Scotland using everything from the natural surroundings of the coastlines and dense forests to the heavy rain and thick fog across the Highlands. I hate the term “arty” describing film, but I guess this is what ‘Under The Skin’ really is; an art film. It plays out like a visual interpretation of the human psyche and a dreamy world we live in, fuelled by the mystery surrounding Johansson and McWilliams and their relationship. Extreme close-ups, pulled back sweeping shots, high and low angles all help add to the intrusive, semi-erotic and at times voyeuristic feel to this film. We linger on shots of naked bodies, plump lips, curvaceous hips and smokey eyes, all tinged with a sense of that predatory allure that entices us in as the audience as much as the men adoring Johansson’s semi-naked body before them.

Aided by a sparse but very effective soundtrack that serves as a very un-nerving and tense companion to the uncertainty of the scenes played out, this may be difficult to watch in places where the very things that would make us human are taken away before our very eyes in brutal moments that shows the detachment of Johansson’s character to the rest of humanity. The scene on the beach a third in was one of the most harrowing and uncomfortable sequences I’ve seen on film for a very, very long time and it moved me like nothing else has before in film; it was real, it was upsetting and it was horrific. And there was nothing I could do about it except watch though watery eyes. The finale is also tragic to see, not saying what happens or involving who, but it will leave you feeling helpless and seeking a reassuring conversation or hug from someone close to you to remind yourself you’re not alone out there in that big, wide scary world.

While not to everyone’s taste for what they may expect with a marketed sci-fi film starting The Black Widow herself, full of action, sex, fantastical elements and coarse language, it’s not. It’s totally the opposite. Everything here is tastefully done, steadily paced and lots of elements are lingered on; never rushed. This needs to have your full attention and your mind open to everything and anything. The plot is very simple when you get under the skin (thank you) of the film itself, it is just presented in a very clever, beautiful and haunting way that is totally unique and not comparable to anything else I’ve seen recently.

Writing this, it's a 4 star review I think. It needs another viewing to take it all in again, and it's impossible to compare this to other 4-star reviews I've made, or 5-star reviews that may not be "better" to others. This is a 4-star review of one film alone - 'Under The Skin' with no comparison to anything else out there. It's impossible to compare it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pin Up Predator, 16 Feb. 2015
By 
Robert Duncanson (Saratoga, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under The Skin [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Just when you thought you didn't have to face Predators and Aliens again, along comes Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin.

This movie will probably earn a heads or tails response for any of a number of reasons.

For:

Great premise: a hunter comes to earth and seduces guys who are then beamed off world to maybe be extraterrestrial sushi.

Great beam me up, Scotty, variant: bodies of victims are reduced into weirdly beautiful swirls and then pulsed, streamed, and narrowly focused to be sent off.

Great( Unforgettable) scene of chilling horror set on beach: she bags a valiant swimmer while a true human tragedy plays out in the background.

Great scene of almost human compassion: SJ finds a horribly deformed man and invites him to intimacy but then subjects him to the same fate as those she seduced earlier...or does she?

Great camera work: Two back lit shots trace SJ in stunning outline. Later SJ appears nude in a masterful shot where she still preserves modesty. Never has an unmoving arm been so tastefully placed.

Not For:

Each scene in UTS is in someway perplexing; so some people will get mad at being puzzled, while others won't. (An hour after seeing the movie the penny dropped and I figured out why a love scene had an odd ending. I liked this; others might find it geeky.)

If you do not have a high tolerance for silence and a razor thin plot, run.

Some might find the soundtrack too edgy. If you liked Trent Reznor's soundtrack for The Girl With, you'll like this soundtrack: if not, then not.

It is set in Scotland which is rendered as different, unusual, and weird. That nation has many virtues but also the bleakest and harshest landscape imaginable; additionally, the people look like they know this.

SJ captures the feeling of being in a strange land and being herself a stranger.

The ending is brutal, ugly, mysterious,horrible pass measure, and then oddly beautiful. If this doesn't sound appealing then it is a final negative.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I AM LOOKING FOR THE POST OFFICE, 19 July 2014
By 
The Movie Guy "Movies from A to Z" (United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
The basic storyline is a female alien drives a van through Scotland seducing men.

The film opening has a faint muffled voice. It is the alien being learning to speak. What appears to be an alien comes to Scotland and tricks men into coming into her world where they can't walk on water. I wasn't sure if this was real science fiction or something like that Jake Gyllenhaal thing and this was just another metaphor for human relations...which it still could have been. The film changes direction about midway.

Scarlett plays an almost robotic alien, very slow and deliberate in her moves. She doesn't know how to respond to many situations. She asks for directions as if she was reading from a foreign phrase manual. As far as Sci-Fi goes in this genre I think "Phantasm" was more entertaining and "Liquid Sky" more clever.

I think her acting was well done, but as far as entertaining, if left something to be desired. Clearly this is not a film for everyone.

Parental Guidance: F-bomb, sex, attempted rape, full frontal nudity. This is another film that features a naked woman so we can all pretend it's great science fiction. Oh where are my copies of Species, Splice, and Lifeforce. 3 1/2 stars
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, thought provoking and creepy, 22 July 2014
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This has to be one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, but I certainly can see why many people wouldn’t get it. This a film that doesn’t spoon feed you anything, it lets you make up your own mind about what’s going on and the themes and social commentary are only implied. I imagine a lot of people will look passed most of the films subtleties as many aren’t looking for something to engage you in this way. Many people want to ‘switch off’ in movies, this movie needs full attention.
The visuals and sound design are breath taking and I felt this was definitely worth the extra for Blu-ray. Scarlett is insanely good as the lead and her performance drew me in while being totally creeped out. I also applaud her nude scenes, that are well shot and not over sexualised. They don’t feel forced and are actually important for the film.
This isn’t for everyone. If you’re hoping for massive budget alien ships, explosions and convoluted dialog stay clear. This is a slow, unnerving film with little dialog but speaks volumes in its visuals and subtle story elements.
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48 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Marmite of Films, 11 April 2014
By 
A. B. Kenwright "tonyk186" (Liverpool UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Under The Skin [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Have rarely seen a film that divided audiences like this one. For me it was irresistable, haunting, beautiful, tender, dark, eerie, sharp and deliciously under-explained.
In the days before videos and DVDs etc. when the only way to see a film again was to go back to the cinema for a second look, I occasionally did that. I haven't done it for 20 years but this film so intrigued me that I actually went back to the cinema two days after first seeing it to watch it all over again. Guess what? It was even better the second time. I'll be buying the DVD because I suspect it might be even better the third time. It's like nothing else you've ever seen but as I touchstone I'd say that if you thought Let The Right On In was a masterpiece, I did, then you'll love this.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Johanssen's 'Taxi Driver', 19 July 2014
This review is from: Under The Skin [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Quite often major hollywood actors have a presence that eclipses any character they are asked to play.
Marilyn Monroe could never escape it, although tried with some success in 'Bus Stop. 'Robert De Niro's career defining films were all about a character far more interesting than the actor, films such as 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull'.

Scarlett Johanssen hadn't had her career defining role, a film in which she could transform into something else, completely immersed and unreconisable from the actress Scarlett Johanssen. Not until 'Under the Skin', a film which polarized critics and audiences alike, refusing to conform to the movie making syllabus.

As Scarlett's alien eventually grows into 'her' skin and surroundings, humanity begins to take an effect on 'her' and we watch like a fly as 'her' story unfolds. Never do we see Scarlett Johanssen, the performance is so far removed that it is easy to see 'her' as an alien and not the actress.

What a fanastic piece of cinema. So understated, not concerned with plot (the destroyer of many a film), you have to see it before you die, it's that good.

Why is watching an alien drive a transit van so captivating? Well if that's all you get from it then i suggest you go and watch the next avengers movie, much easier, no brainer.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Film of the Decade., 21 July 2014
This review is from: Under The Skin [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
To rabbit on about "genius" etc. is all a bit po-faced and Guardian reader. But I had been waiting to see this for about 3 years, having thought director's previous film Birth was a unique and extraordinary experience. UTS repeats the trick. The choices the director and his collaborators have made are wholly inspiring: first dispense with most of the book (hurrah - I loved the book but this is a film, not a book, they really are two different mediums); second the whole real-life scenarios/ real-time/improv nature gives it a look utterly unlike any film out there. I found that the risks involved in Glazer's approach were completely thrilling.The relatively slow pace becomes hallucinatory - if you allow it too. And we're not talking Bela Tarr territory here, UTS still manages to pack in a fair bit of narrative in it's running time. The nightclub scene alone is just mind-boggling. Amazing soundtrack. I paid to see this twice at the cinema, and nothing in the last year or two have come close to the reward I got from these viewings - second time was better. My personal film of the decade so far.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern science fiction horror masterpiece that'll blow your mind, 21 Feb. 2015
By 
Robert Blenheim (Daytona Beach, Florida) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A bizarre masterpiece of 2014 is Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin" which seems to almost re-invent cinema itself in its refusal to avoid all narrative explanation. While watching, each viewer must unravel the story solely from the film's images which range from the unearthly beautiful to the deeply disturbing, at times making Glazer seem the heir to Stanley Kubrick.

The plot, at least in its first half hour, is virtually undecipherable, but it tells of an alien entity taking the form of a seductive young woman who searches for human prey for reasons one must surmise. Scarlett Johansson plays the alien with a detached dispassion and a slowly-developing empathy as she processes the variety of human behavior she is studying -- this is undoubtedly the cap of Johansson's career to date.

Magnificently filmed in Scotland, this is a sort of science-fiction horror story mated with "Candid Camera" (using hidden surveillance cameras pointed at real people on the street), while it goes way beyond its genre roots to ultimately form a statement of what the human experience is all about. Using not only directing, editing, cinematography, art direction as well as the music score with brave new audacity, "Under the Skin" is a milestone in breaking out of the mold of conventional cinema.
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Under the Skin   [US Import] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region A]
Under the Skin [US Import] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region A] by Jeremy McWilliams (Blu-ray - 2014)
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