First Look Pictures // 2005 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // November 27th, 2007
He was somebody, until the Army turned him into nobody.
Based on the novel No One Thinks of Greenland, Guy-X is a black comedy set on an Army base in Greenland, where the sun doesn't go down for months on end and everyone is just a bit messed up.
Private Rudy Spruance (Jason Biggs) is looking forward to his new posting in Hawaii -- great weather and beautiful women sounds like a pretty good deal. The only problem is there's been a blank-up and he finds himself dropped off in Greenland instead. Oh, and everyone thinks he's actually Martin Petersen, the new PIO.
Rudy finds the endless months of constant daylight aren't for him and does all he can to get off the base. However when he stumbles across a hidden medical ward, he meets patient Guy-X (Michael Ironside) and soon begins to uncover the truth behind the base.
Still best known for adding extra filling to apple pies or having a trumpet rammed up his wazoo in the American Pie movies, Jason Biggs shows here that he's actually a pretty decent actor who doesn't have to resort to slapstick to get noticed. He plays Rudy as possibly the only sane person on a base full of soldiers with a loosening grip on their sanity.
Tasked with setting up a newspaper to lift the spirits of the soldiers on base, Rudy soon finds himself falling in with a group seemingly happy to accept their lot despite being aware they are likely to be driven insane by life on the base, if they haven't gone nuts already. Capturing the insanity perfectly, one scene has the base's film critic reviewing Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the only film the base ever shows. Another good scene has Rudy being confronted by the base's chef after a damning review by the paper's food critic.
Biggs is supported by an excellent cast that includes the stunning Natascha McElhone and the always brilliant Jeremy Northam. Northam especially shines as commanding officer, Colonel Woolwrap; he's clearly a little nuts but he may also hold the truth behind the mystery of Guy-X.
In fact it is the mystery behind Guy-X that the film ultimately rises and falls by. While Spruance's time on the base is littered with entertaining characters and witty observations on a soldier's life in peacetime, the driving force behind the story soon becomes the truth about Guy-X and his fellow patients in the classified ward. Who are they really? Why are they there and why is it so important nobody knows about them?
That the film offers a somewhat muted payoff may cause some viewers to dismiss the film out of hand. Sometimes, though, it's not the destination that matters but the journey getting there. Guy-X ends up being a good, though far from great, film.
While the film itself may never reach levels of greatness, the directing and cinematography are quite brilliant. Perfectly capturing the vast, often empty, expanses of land that make up Greenland, the film is a visual joy. The move from constant daylight to constant night offers a dramatic visual shift. Setting the stunning scenery aside, the filmmakers litter the otherwise mundane Army base with startling images, the American flag marked in stones and the solitary Coke machine in the ammunition dump among the strongest.
The DVD transfer is excellent with a sharp, detailed picture making the most of the contrasting environments. The picture is clean from dirt and grain and even during heavy snowstorms manages to offer a clearly defined image. The soundtrack is impressive, especially during the scenes towards the end set during a snowstorm making the most of users' setups that offer surround sound.
Sadly the only extras are a few trailers.
As much as I enjoyed the film I couldn't help but think the whole mystery element, which gradually becomes the crux of the film, was a little unfocused. Had the film perhaps offered more of a message on the fate of Guy-X, I'm certain it would be far more successful. As it stands the film is a slightly uneven mix of M.A.S.H.-style observations on military life and a conspiracy plot that never really quite manages to gel.
Definitely worthy of at least a rental, the film survives on its mix of oddball characters and humorous situations it often finds them in. Helped by a fine cast, the film has a certain charm that ensures even a somewhat disappointing conclusion doesn't dampen the experience too much. Those looking for belly laughs will be disappointed, though.
Just to note, no pies were defiled in the making of this movie.
The judge orders the writers to spend one week in solitary for losing focus on an interesting premise. Everyone else is free to go while Mr. Biggs is commended for managing to abstain from fraternizing with the food.
Review content copyright © 2007 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R