When Air Force One is shot down by terrorists leaving the President of the United States stranded in the wilderness, there is only one person around who can save him - a 13-year old boy called Oskari. In the forest on a hunting mission to prove his maturity to his family, Oskari had been planning to track down a deer, but instead discovers the most powerful man on the planet in an escape pod. With the terrorists closing in to capture their own "Big Game" prize, the unlikely duo must team up to escape their hunters.
Childhood innocence is something to be celebrated. As we age, we tend to lose our innocence and are quickly expected to grow into adult roles that for many may be predetermined by culture or the overbearing pressures of family expectations. I've long believed that what keeps a person young, no matter their numerical age might be, is a constant sense of wonder and imagination. Anytime a book, or a TV show, or a movie can pull one back to that time in your life when you were a kid who ran around the house living out an imaginary fantasy life is something to be celebrated. 'Big Game' is a movie that taps into that childish fantasy world while proving to be an exciting and endearing coming of age story.
The Northern Finnish landscape is a hard, sparsely populated place. One of the local villages has a right of passage for every young man on his 13th birthday: He is sent out into the rugged landscape all alone armed with only a bow and arrow to survive the night and bring home his first hunt. For Oskari (Onni Tommila), he has a lot to live up to, as his father Tapio (Jorma Tommila) is a famous hunter in the region who on his 13th Birthday managed to successfully hunt a large bear. Oskari, while determined and dedicated to living up to his father, isn't nearly as strong or as prepared - but that isn't going to stop him from succeeding at his hunt. The shooting down of Air Force One and subsequent rescue of the President of the United States may slow him down just a tad.
President William Alan Moore (Samuel L. Jackson) is on Air Force One headed to Helsinki for the G8 summit. On top of the pressures of dealing with world leaders, he's being ripped apart at home in the poles as a lame duck President. If that wasn't bad enough, the primary Secret Service Agent in charge of his protection detail Agent Morris (Ray Stevenson) has conspired with a maniacal big game hunter named Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus) to shoot down Air Force One, kidnap the President, and ultimately kill him. Morris once took a bullet for President Moore in the line of duty and is now being forced into early retirement because a bullet fragment could puncture his heart at any time. Morris feels the man he dedicated his life to save hasn't turned out to have been worth the sacrifice. Once SAM rockets fired from the Finish mountain ranges shoot down the President's fighter jet escort and bring down Air Force One, it's only a matter of time before Morris and Hazar locate the President's escape pod and enact their sadistic plans. Thankfully for the President, brave little Oskari was there.
After freeing President Moore from the escape pod, Oskari is determined to bring the leader of the free world back to meet his father. After all, what could possibly top the President of The United States as the biggest game of all? As the Vice President (Victor Garber), General Underwood (Ted Levine), the CIA Director (Felicity Huffman), and former CIA Agent Herbert (Jim Broadbent) are powerless to intercede, it's up to Oskari to ensure that President Moore survives the traitorous mountains as well as the small army of bad guys Hazar and Agent Morris are using to hunt them down before the rescue team arrives.
Perhaps the best way to explain 'Big Game' is by putting it into the context of my own personal experiences as a kid growing up. I grew up in rural wooded Southeastern Michigan. We had a lot of wooded swamp land that was perfect for a small boy to run around in, get muddy, and play pretend war games with his friends. As a child of the 80s, I got to enjoy movies like 'First Blood,' 'Commando,' 'Aliens,' and 'Predator' at a very young age. Tough Guy action movies like that were my bread and butter when I wasn't watching 'Star Trek' reruns or Clint Eastwood Westerns. Those woods I lived in were a great place to play and pretend I was some sort of elite soldier with a stick substituting for a gigantic firearm. 'Big Game' is like having all of my childhood fantasies committed to a movie, only it's also meant for adults to see making it perhaps one of the best Father/Son movies ever made. It's an over the top "Michael Bay-style" action movie with a grandiose epic action score from Juri Seppä and Miska Seppä, tons of bullets and explosions, loads of heart-to-heart talks about bravery, rotating camera cinematography, and more sweeping shots of mountain peaks than a 'Lord of the Rings' movie. To say I was "very entertained" is a bit of an understatement, however, as much as I did love it, 'Big Game' has some story issues that I wish had been taken care of.
I know I probably shouldn't be nitpicking what amounts to a "Kid's Action Movie," but I can't help myself. My primary issue with 'Big Game' is Morris' motivation to betray the President and in the process take the lives of dozens of people who were on board Air Force One. The only reason he ever really gives is a lack of leadership - whatever that means. Ray Stevenson can be a ferocious actor as he's proved time and time again and could have been a formidable opponent, only all of that presence is undercut with his weak characterisation. By contrast, his cohort Hazar played by a wonderfully campy Mehmet Kurtulus has a clear motivation. It isn't money or politics that motivates him; like Oskari, he's a hunter! He literally want's to kill and taxidermy the President of the United States and have him mounted in his home! Also bringing down the movie a tad on the plot side of things is an undercooked and relatively unresolved third act conspiracy angle that I really can't talk about without spoiling some twists and turns. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.
With those mild complaints out of the way, I'll go back to saying how much fun I had with 'Big Game.' I had a lot of fun with this movie! When the trailer first rolled around in the early spring, you could just tell this was going to be one of those movies where you shut your brain down and go with the flow, and it certainly is that. At the same time, I'll say that it's nice to see a coming of age story with this sort of sincerity. This could have easily turned into some sort of 'Home Alone' knock off, but the fact that Oskari is in way over his head keeps it a bit grounded but at the same time I loved how they gave the kid a sense of purpose and determination. He's a kid that all he want's in the world is the respect of his elders and is ready to do anything in order to achieve his goal. If you've got a love for 80s style action set in a kid's world that is also adult friendly, 'Big Game' is a blast from start to finish and should make your inner child squeal with joy.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Big Game' hunts down Blu-ray thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie is pressed onto a BD50 disc that comes housed in a standard case with slip cover. The disc opens to a couple trailers for other Anchor Bay releases before arriving to an animated main menu.
'Big Game' features an absolutely stunning 1080p 2.40:1 transfer. The impressive detail levels offer so much to see and appreciate the stunning Bavarian landscape (substituting for Finland) as well as fine facial features and the intricate costuming. Coloring is also spot on as the movie is a feast of cool earth tones letting primaries have a lot of pop while keeping flesh tones accurate. Black levels are also rich and inky offering a pleasant sense of three-dimensional depth - especially as Oskari and The President travel through the wilderness and over mountains. Where the transfer can falter a bit is when green screen backgrounds have been employed as the foreground objects look like they're popping out of a flat screen. Thankfully these moments are kept to a minimum, but they're very noticeable when they show up. All in all a pretty terrific transfer.
'Big Game' explodes with an incredibly pleasing English/Finnish Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track. As an action flick, all of the best elements from the bullet blasts, to the explosions, to the rousing score are given plenty of space to breathe and provide a resonate sonic impact. Dialogue is front and center and never falters. Levels are also incredibly strong as everything is kept in the midranges so you don't have to ride your volume when things get too loud or when the movie decides to have a couple of quiet heart-to-heart moments. Imaging is a great feature of this track as there is plenty of ambient and atmospheric effects to keep the surrounds engaged during the slow moments. I'm going to shout out the score again because it is rousing and very exciting to listen to and the mix never betrays its importance.
'Big Game' Unrated Version: (1080p AVC MPEG-4 1:30:00) So this is a bit of an oddity. For starters, an extra four minutes of character moments with the traditional Samuel L. Jackson unedited F-Bomb is not really all that much for an "Unrated Version" in all honesty. I like the cut material as we get to see
If you are still a child at heart and need a film that reconnects your adult self with those wondrous times from so long ago - or if you're a parent and are in need of a good, relatively kid-friendly action movie, 'Big Game' is the flick for you. This is one of those movies I would have loved to have seen in the theater, but as a Blu-ray it is quite the disc sporting an impressive A/V presentation. The "Unrated Version" isn't all that much of an extra feature when you get right down to it, but that's not going to keep me from calling this one as recommended. It's probably not a movie everyone will love as much as I did, but if you're in the hunt for fun, you should be all set with this disc.