Spiderhead Is Missing What Made the Story Great

A dark fable about corporate obedience gets Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth—and loses its teeth.

This story contains spoilers for Spiderhead

There are good reasons why Spiderhead—Joseph Kosinski’s Netflix adaptation of the great George Saunders short story

“Escape from Spiderhead”—is the only feature film based on the Booker Prize-winning author’s work

Saunders’ everyman characters struggle to live decent lives under the thumbs of indifferent institutions,

which ought to make for an ideal movie plot because who can’t identify with that?

But entertainment conventions demand that our heroes rebel, fight back, and then light out for the territories, as if injustice can be eluded with a change of scenery.

Saunders is more honest about the likelihood of any of us getting out

but his artistry lies in his ability to wring dark humor out of sinister and often hopeless situations, the ironic contrast between corporatespeak and the routine cruelties it covers up, the ways language fails to measure the depth of our experience.

In the film, the lab is a brutalist concrete outpost on an unspoiled island

however, it becomes obvious that this film won’t have the courage of Saunders’ story. The filmmakers have given Jeff a love interest, Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett).