For thirteen-year-old Oskari (Onni Tommila) this is a momentous day, for by tomorrow he will have become a man. Like his father before him, and his father’s father and so on back through the generations, he will embark on a hunt in his native Lapland, bringing back a beast he has killed with his bow and arrows, and thus will be inducted into his community’s adult world, but there’s just one drawback: he can’t fire his arrows too well. In fact, he’s almost completely useless at drawing the string back to let loose with the missile, he just doesn’t have the strength, so the elders express their misgivings about allowing Oskari to head off into the wilderness alone when he’s patently not up to the task…
But a deer is not the big game of the title, oh no, for the kid stumbles across a more significant catch than that – how about the President of the United States of America? And he’s actually Samuel L. Jackson, who is in a similar position to him in that he feels he is a disappointment to the people he wanted to impress? Well, how do these two meet up? In homage to many an eighties action movie, the plot was contrived enough to be ridiculous while still maintaining some form of dramatic integrity so that though the scenario was farfetched to say the least, director Jalmari Helander encouraged us to go along with it because this was your basic man’s man adventure. Nevertheless, there were interesting twists on the formula, much in the manner an eighties high school movie would tell its target audience to stand up for itself.
It was just that Helander was telling the President and a little kid to do the same, an example of how people from wildly differing backgrounds can find common ground and improve their days as a result. But first, they must meet, and they do that when there’s a terrorist attack on Air Force One, which happens to be flying over Lapland just as a missile is targeted at the plane, leaving the President forced to evacuate in his special pod which parachutes to the forest below. Ah, but the insurgents are closer to home than he realised as his security chief Morris (Ray Stevenson) has orchestrated the entire event since he deeply resents taking a bullet for his boss in the line of duty, and now regrets doing so for a man dubbed a lame duck in the press. Basically, he feels like a sucker, so why no help the bad guys?
Said bad guys on the ground led by Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus), son of an oil sheik and a psychopath who would love to have the President’s body stuffed and mounted on his wall – he’s not joking, he really would like to do that. While the U.S. Government has kittens as they try to track him down, with Vice President Victor Garber asking advice from eccentric security expert Jim Broadbent (not from the C.I.A. chief Felicity Huffman, the only woman in the entire movie who must have wondered why she bothered showing up considering how little she has to do), and eventually can only observe uselessly from a spy satellite what is going on. But it was that relationship between the President and Oskari that fuelled the movie, for once the boy has found the leader of the free world, he realises this is a better catch than some deer.
No, he doesn’t start shooting his arrows at him, but that reclaiming the masculinity theme was well-served by a movie that didn’t hang around, didn’t outstay its welcome and more or less did the job it set out to do with efficiency and a neat sense of how ridiculous it was, but going along with that for entertainment’s sake. Which is not a bad way to deliver your action flick, it had to be said, and Helander picked a lot of fine-looking locations to play out his tale, though he picked the Alps in Germany to film as he didn’t think the Finnish landscape was dramatic enough, and presumably took it for granted that few outside his native country would notice the difference. It was also intriguing for being one of many examples of a non-American movie slavishly yet not quite convincingly imitating the Hollywood model, here with actual Americans drafted in to perform. With setpieces designed to build up the central duo’s confidence – Jackson commendably gave over most of the glory to his young co-star – Big Game set itself up as an empowering lesson that even the least likely, most humble person can become a hero, and there wasn’t much wrong with that. Music by Juri Seppä and Miska Seppä.
[Entertainment One's Blu-ray shows off the landscapes to their best effect, and has a million interviews and a special effects featurette as extras.]