At once impressionistic and unforgettable, Under the Skin is – at its core – a vast departure from typical alien invasion tropes as Jonathan Glazer fully employs a striking vision unlike anything you’ll see in coming years. As can be gathered from a particularly cryptic, almost indecipherable teaser, Scarlett Johansson aptly handles the role of a sultry otherworldly denizen that ritualistically preys on unsuspecting male loners. Initially and consistently challenging a traditional approach to the film’s inherent simplicity, Under the Skin‘s ensuing smorgasbord of unfathomably affecting style is impressive beyond words.
Calculatingly roaming the suitably alien-esque and agreeably stunning Scottish landscapes, Johansson’s intentedly effective femme fatale quality contributes valuably to some of the more aesthetically beguiling sequences I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Employing “beguiling” as a rarely used term of endearment, the first two-thirds of the film are permeated by the central character’s means of needfully “ingesting” her victims, a soul-piercing swatch of endless black serving as the backdrop for the aurally and visually captivating.
With repetition and a mysterious, comparatively enigmatic enforcer-type inexplicably but competently monitoring his subject’s every move, a rhythm is established that paves the way toward a fish-out-of-water latter bit encapsulating familiar themes of self-discovery and maturation. Mildly jarring and equally beneficial in pursuit of this narrative manipulation, Glazer’s preceding creative onslaught takes a backseat as look and feel are maintained but to a less-involving degree.
Although partially detracting from my initial and unabashed adoration, Under the Skin‘s substantial last-third departure didn’t grab me as much as the proceedings wholly did for many others entirely. Remaining effortlessly and admirably inventive thanks to a ceaseless surpassing of preconceptions, Jonathan Glazer’s long-awaited third feature is an agreeably avant-garde and loosely-played treatment of its literary origins. Flipping basal genre conventions on their heads while simultaneously losing some steam on account of an overtly minimalistic if striking bout of existential rumination, Under the Skin presents its sum-totaling parts in an unparalleled and consistently impressive fashion.