Directed by: Anders Walter
Written by: Joe Kelly
Starring: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade, Jennifer Ehle
Runtime: 104 min
An oddball girl named Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) regularly brings a Noerse warhammer to her middle school and has a detailed imaginary life in which she is a skilled giant killer.
Anders Walter's film is based on Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura's acclaimed graphic novel of the same name.
This movie was released at the beginning of the year, but I skipped it at the time. Since it just came out in Portugal, I finally decided to watch it, and I wanna slap myself for not seeing this before. I Kill Giants is an incredibly emotional and heartfelt story which does not take the predictable path that is usually found in this genre.
First of all, don't be fooled by the trailer. As you might know, if you have been following me, I stopped watching trailers in 2016, and this is yet another example for the endless list of "films ruined by trailers." Since that moment, I watch the movie first, and only then I watch the trailer(s) so I can get a notion of what I can write about or not. In this case, don't think of this film as a fantasy action story, like the marketing campaign wants you to believe. That's bait.
What surprises me is that they didn't need to be misleading! This has such an important message to everyone but especially kids. Joe Kelly's screenplay is amazingly written, filled with little details that are very well explored throughout the runtime. It seems to follow a generic plot but the unexpected third act makes you rethink the whole movie. This is, so far, the most powerful story of this year. It goes through how to deal with tragedy, family issues, bullying and so much more. The message that this film brings is what production companies should focus on. Not brainless blockbuster action. Not excessive CGI. The story and its message to the audience, that's what's relevant!
Madison Wolfe is incredible as Barbara. Undoubtedly, the best performance from a young actress this year, so far. She incorporates her character in such a realistic way, giving her the necessary emotions. Naturally, Kelly's script sure helps her a lot (even if some lines are too over-the-top for my taste) but Wolfe elevates it and nails her role. Barbara is a truly captivating protagonist, who quickly gets the attention of the audience with her mysterious yet relatable personality. What she goes through is an extremely delicate theme but how she gets through it, that is what makes this movie as great as it is.
Imogen Poots (Karen) is also really good as Barbara's sister and her character also gets some sweet moments of screentime. Zoe Saldana plays Mrs. Mollé and her undeniable quality is shown on screen. She portrays Barbara's psychologist and their interactions contain some of the best dialogue in the entire film. Saldana's character has some good chunks of screentime, but they are not as important as the ones from another young actress.
Sydney Wade plays Barbara's friend, Sophia. Unfortunately, her character does not get the same development that we witness on the others. Basically, she aims to get some information for the audience members. Anders Walter tries to escape as many exposition scenes as he can and Sophia helps him do that. She does not know if her friend is just crazy or if she is actually on to something. I wish that Walter and Kelly gave some more depth to this character since it just feels that she is there so the audience can understand the story and Barbara's personality.
Switching to the technical part of the movie, Walter provides a few surprises. For a small-budget flick, it is outstanding what he and his visual effects' team are able to accomplish. Even though there is barely any action, which slows down the film a tiny bit too much, it is flawlessly filmed. The simple but very important cinematography in the scenes at night plus a surprisingly excellent CGI work on the giants, give the audience the so desired tension and thrill rides.
The score is subtle but it beautifully encompasses every moment. It keeps its pacing well-controlled and its tone even more. It never stops being a dramatic movie to insert a joke here and there, it keeps the realism and the focus on Wolfe's character. I really don't have any significant flaws regarding the technical aspect of the film. It is a very well-made and well-filmed story, especially having in mind that this is not a huge blockbuster with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars.
I Kill Giants is one of the year's surprises and it has Madison Wolfe at the rightful center of it. Definitely, the best performance from a young actress so far. Barbara is an astonishingly captivating and exceptional protagonist, who goes through several of life's problems. The way she deals with them is how the movie triumphs. With a very talented cast at their disposal, Walter's direction and Kelly's screenplay provide a precious message not only to kids but to every single person out there. So, if you have the opportunity to watch this film, do it. Just don't expect blockbuster monster action. Expect, yes, a very passionate and genuine story at its core.