Netflix UK film review: I Kill Giants
Fantasy and reality6
Noel Clarke cameo4
Matthew Turner | On 05, May 2018
Director: Anders Walter
Cast: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Sydney Wade, Imogen Poots, Rory Jackson, Jennifer Ehle
Watch I Kill Giants online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The feature debut of Danish director Anders Walter, I Kill Giants is based on the 2008 graphic novel by Joe Kelly (who wrote the screenplay) and Ken Niimura. On the surface, the film covers some familiar ground (it would make an excellent double bill with A Monster Calls), but it pushes all the right buttons and could prove a cult hit with a young audience. (It received a blink-and-you-missed-it theatrical release, but stands a better chance now that people can discover it for themselves on VOD.)
Madison Wolfe stars as Barbara, a troubled teenager who lives with her older sister, Karen (Imogen Poots), and her brother in a small coastal town in northeast America. A defiant outcast at school, Barbara spends every moment of her spare time preparing to trap and kill giants, armed with an array of self-made potions (the bait), a giant-smashing storm hammer that’s kept in a small purse and a pair of rabbit ears that she never takes off. But are the giants actually real or just a product of her colourful imagination?
At the outset of the film, two new figures enter Barbara’s life. First, her new neighbour, Sophia (Sydney Wade), a girl her own age from Leeds, who’s just moved to the area and seems eager to be her friend. And second, kindly school counsellor Mrs Molle (Zoe Saldana), who tries to get through to Barbara after a bullying incident at school. The problem is that Barbara has quite enough on her plate, what with all the giants that need killing, and doesn’t seem too disposed to be making any new friends.
Wolfe plays Barbara to perfection, giving her a convincingly scrappy attitude that’s clearly masking some pushed-down-deep emotional turmoil she’s not yet ready to handle. The source of said turmoil is fairly easy to guess, but the film takes its time getting there, making it that much more powerful when it finally arrives.
The supporting cast are equally good. Poots is quietly touching as the young woman whose own life has been put on hold while she takes care of her two siblings, and Wade makes a strong impression as Sophia (her Leeds accent adds a nice bit of colour too). Similarly, Rory Jackson is effective as Barbara’s former friend-turned-school tormentor and Saldana is engaging and empathetic as Mrs Molle – even if her marriage to a cameoing Noel Clarke takes the whole suspension of disbelief thing just that little bit too far.
It’s worth noting that despite its male writer and director, there’s a commendably strong female energy to this film – there are male characters but they’re very much in the background, and all the main speaking parts are female. While the script arguably doesn’t make quite as much of that fact as it should, it’s nonetheless a quietly distinctive element that marks it apart from similar movies.
Ultimately, what I Kill Giants lacks in originality, it makes up for with its relatable performances, while Walter’s sure-handed direction does a good job of maintaining the ebb and flow between fantasy and reality and makes strong use of the film’s presumably fairly low special effects budget.
I Kill Giants available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.