With recent popular Finnish films like Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), Lapland Odyssey (2010) and cult favourite Iron Sky (2012), it would seem that the Nordic country is making a fair impression on the western box office. It was the writer-director of Rare Exports, Jalmari Helander, who was chosen to helm Big Game, which contributes to why the film has gotten such a wide distribution. Well, that and seeing Samuel L. Jackson play the President of the United States is probably something your average moviegoer would love to see.”
Big Game sees Air Force One shot down by terrorists, leaving the President abandoned in a densely forested area of Finland. At the same time, a thirteen year old boy named Oskari (Onni Tommila) has been sent into the forest to hunt and kill an animal so that he can prove his manhood to the local village and thus be accepted into the adult community. Oskari finds the President in an escape pod and releases him. The pair begins wandering through the forest together – one hunter, the other hunted.
The story alternates between following these two characters, the terrorists who are after the President, and those back at the Pentagon headquarters who are trying to find the President and bring him safely home. With Victor Garber as the Vice President, Felicity Huffman as the CIA director and Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge) as an adviser, this provides a sufficiently intriguing side-plot, even if their incapability at finding the President seems a tad unrealistic. Northern Irish actor Ray Stevenson plays the bodyguard-turned-villain Morris with gusto. However, his accomplice Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus) does little more than stand around and look menacing with his cronies.
The terrain of Finland is stunning and provides a beautiful backdrop to the story of the inevitable bond that grows between Oskari and the President. Tommila proves to be a charming young lead, but Jackson’s character is rather pathetic. Even with such a charismatic actor playing him, the President is barely likeable – one is forced to wonder if such characterisation was done purposefully as a commentary on the American government, but the film does not seem to be trying to be clever – and Jackson only becomes the badass we know and love (and came to see) in the final act of the film. Very little actually happens over the course of the film, and the plot often stretches the limits of credibility. While the plane crash scene is visually impressive, some of the other CGI in the film, particularly set in the forest, is poor – which is surprising given the film was apparently the most expensive produced in Finland to date. How disappointing.