The gap between shooting Top Gun: Maverick and actually releasing Tom Cruise’s world-beating legacy sequel was so large that director Joseph Kosinski managed to squeeze in making a whole other reasonably-budgeted thriller during the interregnum. That film is Spiderhead, adapted from the George Saunders short story Escape From Spiderhead. The fact that it quietly debuted on Netflix rather than smashed box office records like an ATG missile smashes an unsanctioned uranium enrichment facility should indicate how to adjust your expectations.
Not that Spiderhead doesn’t offer some fun, and some food for thought. The titular facility is a kind of “special privileges” island prison in the unspecified near future, where inmates get better treatment in return for allowing pharmaceutical tests to be conducted on them by warden/head boffin Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth). The idea is to lessen crime—and suffering—via chemical control. Abnesti has hooked his subjects up to little colour-coded injection packs set at the base of their spines that allow him to deliver doses via an app.
It’s all for the greater good, Hemsworth’s Steve Jobs-esque friendly face of pharma assures us some time after chemically-induced passion has seen our point-of-view character Jeff (Miles Teller) and fellow inmate Heather (Tess Haubrich) go at it like rabbits. After all, if everyone could feel like that at the touch of a button, what need for crime?