Not the Sam Jackson you're looking for.

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Big Game is the latest film by Finnish writer and director Jalmari Helander, who is largely known for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale which included a lot of the same cast. Unfortunately Big Game is suffering from split-personality disorder - not quite knowing what kind of film it wants to be.

Big Game begins within a hunting cabin, as we’re introduced to our pint-sized ‘hero’ Oskari (Onni Tommila) gazing upon a wall full of photos - snapshots through time - of young boys his age; all photographed after successfully completing their coming of age ritual - a single day and night alone in the harsh wilderness, armed with a bow and arrow and tasked with bringing back the biggest game he can find.

But it’s here the film begins to fall flat on its face, as Oskaris’ father (Tapio played by Jorma Tommila) enters the cabin to see how his son is faring before the big hunt; Tapio reassuringly points to a poorly photoshopped photo of himself on the wall - as a child - carrying a severed head of a bear - looking nothing like himself, a completely different ethnicity in fact. Unfortunately I think the film is trying to be serious.

On the other side of the coin, we’re at thirty-thousand feet onboard the infamous Air Force One en route to a pre-G8 summit; joined by Secret Service agent Morris played by Ray Stevenson - who doesn’t even try to feign an American accent, how the US Government let him have this job is anybodies guess - checking in with President Moore (Samuel L. Jackson) - and probably the only reason why your half interested in this film.

Unfortunately this President is a bit of a damp-squib, and that seems to be the sole reason he is about to be ejected from his plane, by a half-cocked plan in about two minutes. Morris, after previously taking a bullet for the President just isn’t very happy that he’s such a wuss - wishing Sam Jackson was more the badass he normally portrays in his other movies - instead he’s the type of guy who get’s told what he can and cannot eat by the First Lady.

Back on the ground the hunting party gathers to see Oskari off on his day-trip, whilst simultaneously an altogether different hunting party concocts a plan to blow up Air Force One; using rocket launchers fired from a tall mountain - customs are really slacking these days - and yeah, I’m not making any of this up. Helped by the constantly disappointed Agent Morris, who somehow inexplicably not only manages to tamper with the defence mechanisms of Air Force One - but also the three fighter-jets accompanying the prestigious plane.

Alas with destruction imminent, the plan is set in motion and the President is hurried towards his specially-made escape-pod contraption - that look’s like it could survive the nuclear holocaust - before he can shout about snakes on a plane he is launched out of the hangar. Followed gallantly by his secret service agents, who unfortunately all fall to their doom after inexplicably failing to notice cable ties holding their parachutes closed.

We’re now treated to a visual-feast as Agent Morris leaps out of the plane in persuit of the President, past the on-coming missiles that continue their trajectory onwards towards the aircraft from whence he came. I’ll give credit where it is due, for a reported budget of under nine million Euros, Big Game has really got the most out of that money; the full-CGI scenes whilst few, are of a high quality and the set locations themselves are beautiful. The mountain ranges that the majority of Big Game is set in, really help sell a much bigger budget film.

It's clear to see the director's Spielberg-influence - with Oskari now alone in the forest, treated to his own Close Encounters moment as strange lights illuminate through the trees - the source of which crashing before him. But once again the script lets us down, as our wimpish President seemingly under-threat of a terrorist attack gives the first passer-by the secret code to his protective container. These leaps of faith would work if the film was solely from Oskaris’ point of view and focused on his coming of age story - instead it jumps back and forth tonally between a more violent action thriller that seems incongruous to that Spielberg like charm it’s trying to achieve with Oskari. It flat out doesn’t work, and no amount of E.T. references, with the President carried under blankets across the moonlit sky helps its case. But with the President now in-tow, it's up to Oskari to protect and elude his would-be captors.

The casting likewise is just plain strange, once again we’re introduced to our usual slew of US officials within their command centre - in a panic over an attack on the President - it involves your usual tropes, the hawkish general, the weasley Vice President and the CIA spook - except this time once again he is British (Jim Broadbent), and has joined the ‘we aren’t even trying to be American club’ - I guess they really do hire anyone these days. Odd casting and a poor script is a staple of most action movies we see today, but when you don't fully commit to that, the cracks begin to show quickly.

Big Game does try and hint at something deeper within the story, but then casually skims past leaving you to wonder if it's a message about the military-industrial complex and perpetual war. Thankfully Big Game doesn’t commit the cardinal sin and outstay its welcome but wraps up in speedy fashion - but you’re unlikely to be satisfied after leaving your seat as the credits roll.

If you go in expecting another Samuel L. Jackson action thriller, then look elsewhere - likewise if you were thinking of bringing your young children, to witness a tale of a young hero against all odds I’d say don’t. For as light and nonsensical as the story is - Big Game is quite the violent film - hampered by a poor script and just bizarre casting choices - the only saving grace being the technical aspects and some beautiful scenery.

Big Game has direct-to-dvd written all over it, but it’s seemingly slipped through that net onto our big-screens.

Big Game is currently available to buy on Blu-ray & DVD via Amazon or on-demand via Amazon Video.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    17th May 2015

  • 2 Out of 5 Stars
  • Poor script

    Odd casting

    Straddles genres

    Fails to commit

  • Set locations

    CGI scenes

Film Info

Big Game Big Game
Rating: 12A
Release Date: 7th May
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Jorma Tommila & Jim Broadbent

  • White House Down
  • Olympus Has Fallen

I'd say no. Multiple carcasses and severed heads of animals. Scenes of dead men having fallen from large heights and gun violence.

Much of the outdoor filming took place in the Alps, and is currently the most expensive Finnish film ever made.