“Big Sky” really isn’t that bad a picture until it decides to start getting surreal and existentialist. You figure a movie about survival would keep it simple, but Jorge Michael Grau tries to play the narrative with much more depth. That said, “Big Sky” is a perfectly fine thriller with a solid cast. It kept me invested, and it’s always fun to see child stars evolve in to more unique performers. This is one of the few roles Bella Thorne has taken on in her adult career where she’s not a shrew, and she plays the heroine very well.
Thorne plays Hazel, a young girl traumatized by a horrific accident that made her horrified of open spaces. She’s confined to her small room where she garners a fascination for maps and hears her mother come back and forth trying to live a social life. She decides to go to an institution to cure her disease, but the only way she can travel is in a coffin like box that keeps her contained. While driving to the institution, her mom and a group of patients are held up by two masked gun men and slaughtered. With the robbers unaware she’s in a box, Hazel is able to remain hidden and by some convenience her mom survives being shot.
Now Hazel has to travel to a reservation to find help and conquer her crippling fear of massive wide spaces, or else her mother might die. The movie for the most part is very competent with Thorne playing the role very well. She’s able to convey Hazel’s crippling mental illness with precision, making her a flawed savior who has to rely on her knack for mapping coordinates to overcome her mental faculties. The movie lies on the shoulders of Thorne’s performance, and Thorne is very good here. She’s helped by a very good supporting cast including Kyra Sedgewick as her mortally wounded mother, and Frank Grillo who plays the villain of the piece. He has to keep his little brother in line, especially after he opens fire on the truck, something he didn’t plan.
When he backtracks to find Hazel, they never count on her finding her way to safety, let alone garnering some allies that help her save her mother. “Big Sky” really creates the open environment that Hazel is so terrified of, setting her down in a desert landscape where danger is inevitable, and she has to rely on her wits and dumb luck to keep safe from the thieves/gunmen that are hunting for her. I really didn’t know what the flashbacks were supposed to indicate, as they never really serve a crucial part in the narrative. I’m also not sure why the film dabbles in surrealism with characters suddenly garnering delusions and hallucinations. Despite the flaws though, “Big Sky” is a solid thriller with a very good turn by Thorne and Sedgewick.
In Theaters and on VOD August 14th.