No studio picked up Guy X for a theatrical release. I kept seeing it in Jason Biggs’s filmography, kept waiting for it to show up in a theater and it never did. I assumed the worst from the lack of theatrical release–not to mention thinking Mena Suvari was in the film (it’s Natascha McElhone). After seeing it–actually, maybe halfway into it–I realized why there was no theatrical release. It’d be impossible to sell. Guy X is an epical story masquerading as a character study. Most of the epical narrative developments occur off screen. There are no gripping, tense moments. It’s not even subtle. It’s disinterested in the viewer’s expectation. I’m guessing it’s either a good adaptation of the novel or there’s a lot on the editing room floor.
The plot–Jason Biggs is mistakenly sent to a remote Army base in Greenland (instead of Hawaii) and encounters a strange set of characters, an alluring young woman (McElhone) and a nutty colonel (a great Jeremy Northam)–is kind of simple and kind of not. Guy X could easily be a M*A*S*H knock-off–it does feel a bit like the show anyway–but it’s not. It kind of reminded me of Antarctic Journal, a film no one involved with Guy X could have seen (unless they visited the future). Guy X has lots of scenes of isolation–Biggs is frequently alone in the film, with the supporting cast often less salient than the scenery–but that theme isn’t the prevailing one… but I don’t know what is then.
There is lots of comedy, sometimes easy, sometimes not. There’s a scene with the soldiers watching the same movie they’ve seen week after week, reciting the lines in unison and it’s funny, but there’s something else to it. There’s romance–the film wastes no time establishing the attraction between Biggs and McElhone and the actors do a fantastic job. But then there’s also the big story line, the important one, and the film handles it in a particular manner. It’s hard to explain but basically, the film never explains why Biggs does what he does and, more singularly, it never applauds him for his actions. There’s no payoff for the viewer.
Biggs, whose career has gotten depressing to the point I don’t even want to look on IMDb (but I am and ouch, why has Woody abandoned him), is great. It’s a non-comedic leading man role from him, something I kind of wasn’t expecting. He’s fantastic–especially given he’s got to make the character, a relative enigma, work with all sorts of mild revelations. McElhone is good too. Much of the film depends on their chemistry and they excel.
The supporting cast is all strong. Northam’s playing an American here, great job. Michael Ironside’s great. In the flashiest role, Sean Tucker does a fine job.
Saul Metzstein hasn’t directed much but he does a wonderful job. There’s the wide aspect of the always light Greenland landscape contrasted with the confined Army base–then even more confined when everything goes dark. At times, he reminded me of Lars Von Trier, though I don’t know why… something about the handling of space. François Dagenais’s cinematography and the music–by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Charlie Mole–are also essential components.
As the film ended, I wondered if I was giving it too much credit or too little. I decided on too little. (It’s gotten to the point I can’t believe it when recent films are actually good).
Directed by Saul Metzstein; screenplay by Steve Attridge and John Paul Chapple, based on a novel by John Griesemer; director of photography, François Dagenais; edited by Anne Sopel; music by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Charlie Mole; production designer, Mike Gunn; produced by Mike Downey, Jason Piette and Sam Taylor; released by First Look International.
Starring Jason Biggs (Rudy), Natascha McElhone (Irene), Jeremy Northam (Woolwrap), Sean Tucker (Lavone), Hilmir Snær Guðnason (Petri), Harry Standjofski (Chaplain Brank), Rob deLeeuw (Slim), Donny Falsetti (Genteen), Jonathan Higgins (Vord) and Michael Ironside (Guy X).