The monster flick The Host won’t win anything from anybody for a bunch of obvious reasons, including the following: (1) It’s South Korean. (2) It flopped in the States. (3) It stars a big slimy monster. (4) It’s funny. (5) It doesn’t boast some humongous Crash-like ensemble that doubles as half of SAG’s voting members. It also stacks up unfavorably to this year’s Best Picture competition: no salt-and-pepper Clooney; no Keira Knightley wet-T-shirt contest; no sensitive, artistic paraplegic; no crotchety narration about how the old virtues of America have been flushed down the shitter. And yet. We could go on about how The Host is the ultimate monster movie: how its recipe scrambles small-scale storytelling, big-time effects, laughs, and startling scares in just the right amounts. But monster-movie mash-noting won’t help a film during awards season, so we’ll slip some awards bait on the hook: The Host is, by far, the year’s most apt and coherent metaphor for the war on terror.
Simply put, it drinks the milkshakes of all those cloying, preachy star-vehicle antiwar movies. The Host drinks them right up.
Even starring a icky lizardlike beastie, its nuance puts the choir-preaching of In the Valley of Elah and Lions for Lambs to shame. Whereas The Kingdom and Rendition dumbed down politics for the multiplex (and got lost in explosive action and pouty, preggers melodrama, respectively), The Host didn’t just cynically exploit genre conventions or disingenuously claim nonpartisanship. The Host was an action movie that evolved into a thoroughly satisfying metaphor: A terror that is real (the monster does eat people) and born in reaction to American arrogance abroad (chemicals spilled by a military officer) grows more powerful as the Americans ignore what they have literally left in their wake. This fatal, contained threat grows worse, as security forces bungle their response, and eventually the overly aggressive, clumsy, and American-led response (a giant chemical sprayer that echoes the form of the monster itself) makes the region more dangerous, not less.
Like Redacted — 2007's second-best political film, for its barely bridled rage — The Host cages this moment's visceral fear. Unlike any film this year, it unlooses it and makes you worry about what might come next: a sequel. The Host 2 is literally in the works, while, last week, Iran's tiny blue speedboats nearly provoked the wrath of an American destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz. —Logan Hill