Here we have another somewhat complicated title for me to review. I think altogether, the ideas and underlying messages the movie gives are all well and good. However, when it's all said and done, this also illustrates how much the movie might not completely understand mental health problems and what people have to do in order to manage them. This movie represents that friend we have who is trying to help with all of its good intentions but may be saying all the wrong things to do so.
"Spiderhead" itself is a chemical research facility, testing its pharmaceutical chemicals on penitentiary inmates who have volunteered in order to get a reduced sentence. While the hospitable Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) and his assistant, Mark Verlaine (Mark Paguio) oversee the project, the main test subject we follow is a young man named Jeff (Miles Teller) who is in for having killed his friends while driving drunk. As we watch, he and other test subjects are exposed to a variety of different mood-altering drugs that are meant to help with a lot of everyday problems. For example, there's a love drug that helps with physical attraction and could lead to less loneliness for some people or a fear drug that could potentially allow people to fear things that are ultimately bad for them like sugar, cigarettes or alcohol.
That's pretty much the gist of the plot, as it all predictably leads up to something a little more sinister than just experimentation. In the meantime, it should probably be mentioned that there's a certain attachment Jeff has with another inmate named Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett). It's sort of refreshing in that there's a romantic tie there, but a lot of it has to do with their closeness and being able to tell each other anything. It's not just a lovey-dovey thing here so much as it's a mutual respect, best friend thing with attraction at work. And in case a lot of this is making you think of the movie 'Limitless', you're not exactly alone. But 'Limitless' did a much better job of things.
'Limitless' was a cautionary tale more about the overuse/misuse of a hardcore street drug as opposed to an actual pharmaceutical drug. This one feels a lot more like an actual jab at pharmaceutical companies, their potential behind-the-scenes experimentation, and what their full intentions are. I don't generally have a problem with such a thing, but the final narration of the film is something that gets under my skin a bit because, without spoiling anything, it really does seem to try to simplify something that's more complicated than the film lets on. That said, I will say the final message makes a solid point at the same time. Confused? Yeah, me too.
Truth be told, in the end, it's hard for me to know what to think of this film on the whole. Going back to the film representing that particular friend we all have in our lives, it's hard to get upset at the film's potential misunderstanding of things as its intentions are good, and the point it makes IS still kind of solid. With all of that said, there's always the chance that I've misinterpreted things entirely and I'm overthinking something that actually IS closer to the cautionary tale that 'Limitless' was. Admittedly, this isn't one of my stronger reviews as my feelings towards it are very personal.
In the lineup of Netflix originals, it's probably not one that I can find myself visiting again, and I'd strongly recommend past Netflix titles I've reviewed over this. It strikes me as a film that I will probably end up putting too much thought into despite its intended purpose, but at the same time, I can understand that it's a story about society and its desire to get everything more easily. I'm just completely on the fence with this one. I don't know that I'd say it's as terrible as everyone seems to be saying it is, but I'd also say that it's not one quite meant for someone like me. It's another fine example of "see for yourself". Not much more I can say.