Almost every short story by George Saunders is a masterclass in careful amalgamation and equilibrium of tone in precisely the manner that this adaptation of one of them is not.
We can add this to the subset of movies where producers failed to take note that almost everything that was genuinely interesting about the story in the source text was contained within the first person narration. (Voice, it turns out, is an ideal way to define and constrain ambiguities of mood, which are in a sense the essence of the subject matter here.)
The end result makes one think how crap Black Mirror might be without Charlie Brooker at the helm (or indeed how much of a bust Killing Eve eventually became post-Phoebe Waller-Bridge).
Blending light and darkness, comedy and tension, seemingly requires real skill, especially when the perspective is that of a camera.
There are some obvious points of clumsy failure here in Spiderhead, and then, throughout, there is the unfocused performance of Chris Hemsworth, hardly the actor’s own fault. He’s been made to repeat some of Abnesti’s better comic lines from the story, but they don’t really work in this format.
Moans aside, it's not made for cinemas (was probably another pandemic-era production) and is still kind of fun.