out of Five
Running time: 101
Quirky drama with more than a hint of MASH and Catch 22. Although the script is weak, this stays watchable thanks to its unusual location and the performances of Biggs and Northam.
Scottish director Saul Metzstein received critical acclaim with the release of his first film Late Night Shopping
, back in 2001. It has taken four years (and a number of abandoned projects) for Metzstein’s long-awaited second film to reach the screen, but Guy X finally opens here this week after premiering at the Edinburgh Film Festival in August.
Guy X is set in June, 1979. Jason Biggs plays Corporal Rudy Spruance, who is dumped at a remote military base and immediately attacked by mosquitoes. When he wakes up in hospital, he discovers that everyone is calling him Pederson and that he has been mistakenly posted to Qangattarsa Military Base in Greenland instead of Hawaii.
When Rudy discovers a secret hospital on the base, he befriends a badly wounded patient named X (Michael Ironside) and begins to realise that there may be more to the base than meets the eye.
Jason Biggs (doomed to have some variation of the words pie-botherer in every article ever written about him thanks to the American Pie movies) makes a successful leap from comedy to drama here. His extremely likeable screen presence lends him an engaging Everyman quality that carries the film through its less successful moments.
Northam’s supporting performance is equally good. He’s the most interesting character in the film, as you’re constantly trying to work out whether or not he’s actually insane. McElhone is better here than she has been in her last five movies but her role is underwritten and consequently she has very little to do.
Guy X benefits considerably from its unusual location work. It was filmed in Iceland and the outdoor scenes have a stark beauty to them, thanks to gorgeous photography by Francois Dagenais.
There’s a definite element of both MASH and Catch 22 in Guy X, what with the Kafkaesque confusion over military bureaucracy, the general sense of meaninglessness and Northam’s bordering-on-madness performance. However, the script fails to hit any specific targets and the film ends up looking like a lot of intriguing ideas thrown together without any real plot to speak of.
In short, Guy X definitely has its moments and remains watchable thanks to Biggs and Northam, but you can’t help feeling that with a stronger script and a more engaging plot, this could have been something really special.