Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

Movie review: Johansson goes alien in strangely beautiful ‘Under the Skin’
Review » Eerie drama abounds in haunting images.
First Published Apr 17 2014 03:02 pm • Last Updated Jul 10 2014 03:14 pm

There’s an eerie brilliance and a haunting beauty to "Under the Skin," writer-director Jonathan Glazer’s beyond-strange exploration of what it means to be human — seen from an outside perspective.

At first, we see alien forms — something like a spaceship, maybe, or liquid filling a sphere. Then we see that the sphere has coalesced into an eyeball. Thus is a "woman" formed, in the very pleasing image of Scarlett Johansson.

At a glance


‘Under the Skin’

Scarlett Johansson gives an eerily fascinating performance as a sultry alien seducing young men to their doom.

Where » Broadway Centre Cinemas.

When » Opens Friday, April 18.

Rating » R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language.

Running time » 108 minutes.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

This woman is on a mission. Aided by a mysterious man on a motorcycle, she takes the clothes and persona of a dead woman. She then drives in a white panel van around Scotland, looking for unattached men.

The process goes like this: She picks up a young man, drives around awhile and chats him up about himself. If he has no girlfriend or family connections, she will take him to a remote house with the promise of sex.

Then something truly bizarre happens, and it’s one of the most stunning images you’ll see in a movie this year. She walks forward on a reflective black floor, slowly undressing. The guy does the same, but for him the floor becomes a black pool of liquid — in which he quickly sinks and disappears.

From her behavior — such as a chilling scene in which she leaves a toddler abandoned on a rocky beach — we realize that Lucy is not of this Earth. But she’s learning. With each encounter, her empathy for these humans is growing — and with it, her doubts about her mission to seduce and destroy.

Glazer ("Birth," "Sexy Beast") and co-writer Walter Campbell, in their adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel, provide few overt clues about the origins of either the woman or the motorcycle man. In fact, very little is divulged about anyone appearing in the movie, with the credits only providing a nonspecific list of actors (many of them nonprofessionals, whom Johansson picked up hitchhiking while filming).

Glazer’s images and ethereal soundtrack pay occasional nods to Stanley Kubrick — like the first close-up of the motorcycle man’s helmet, which reflects other cars’ lights in a way that evokes the light show in "2001." But just as often the images are strikingly original and quite unnerving.

Johansson is fascinating as the alien woman whose imitation of humanity slowly morphs into something very like the real thing. It’s a carefully modulated, and largely wordless, performance that enraptures the audience as surely as the character bewitches the poor Scottish gents lured into her van.


story continues below
story continues below

Twitter: @moviecricket

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.