Movie Review: 'The Host' (2013)

“The Host” is the latest adaptation of one of best-selling author Stephenie Meyer’s novels. Yes, the same woman who wrote “Twilight.” Having read all of her books from “Twilight” to “The Host,” this reader believes that “The Host” is her best work. There is something very profound about the novel. From the character development to the overall plotline is quite poignant.

It takes the story a while to get started. When it does get going, the journey to get there has been well worth it. Now a quick summary, a young woman Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is captured by an alien race and implanted with the “soul” of said alien and drama ensues.

It is best not to give any more than that away. This is a story that hinges on so much of the unknown. It is hard to determine where it is going because it is not a formulaic piece, and that is part of its appeal. Not knowing how things are going to turn out is a welcome change.

Upon a second viewing, I can imagine that it is even better to watch. As a reader, much of this viewer's experience watching it the first time was trying to home in on what made it from the book to the screen. An aspect that makes for distracted viewing.

“The Host” is directed by Andrew Niccol. The mastermind behind fantastic films such as “Gattaca,” Lord of War,” “In Time,” and “The Truman Show.” As you can tell from that resume, he is a highly qualified screenwriter and director. Leading to expectations being heightened.

Andrew Niccol delivers by succeeding in one of the most crucial aspects that directors who adapt books into movies face. He brings the world of the book to life.

The cave is absolute perfection, and the overall set design is marvelous. This is half the battle when it comes to an adaptation, and he nails it. The cinematography is crisp and sharp. The score was spot on and struck a right balance between letting its presence be known and being vague enough as to not distract from the dialogue.

Andrew Niccol also gets the best out of his cast. Lead actress Saoirse Ronan rises to the occasion with a surprising turn. Playing Melanie/Wanda is a really tricky tightrope to walk, and in the hands of lesser actors, it would have been disastrous. Her work in “The Host” continues to prove that Ronan has a significant range as an actor.

That said, there are some times, especially at the beginning of the movie, where her idyllic Irish accent slips in. Instead of fighting it, I think “The Host” would have been better served to embrace it. Letting Saoirse Ronan use her native brogue for the part of Wanderer and an American accent for Melanie to differentiate between the two.

Instead, the movie opted for the distinction of a southern accent.  Something that is a little difficult to follow throughout the film and not consistent enough to warrant altering between. It was too faint to really be distinguishable.

The standout performance of the film belongs to the superb William Hurt, who proves that he is still one of the most versatile actors working. Hurt typically portrays characters that sport a cold-blooded sensibility (example: “A History of Violence”).

As Jeb, Hurt captures the antithesis of that by playing, the country genius and heart of the human resistance. Hurt portrays Jeb with warmth, strength, and wit.

Diane Kruger gives an intense performance with a rewarding twist at the end that also demonstrates her versatility. As the male leads, Max Irons continues to find his footing as a thespian with a firmer grip playing Jared.

Meanwhile, newcomer Jake Abel shows a lot of promise as Ian. Saoirse Ronan’s scenes with Chandler Canterbury (Jamie) are also very well done. “The Host” avoids the annoying kid clichรฉs that have plagued so many movies.

“The Host” is one of those forms of entertainment that has to sit on you to gather a full impression. It is not a popcorn movie, and those looking for a teenage romance epic will need to look elsewhere.

While it is doubtful that it will see a sequel after a disappointing run at the domestic box office, the overseas numbers will hopefully be better. Either way, it is nice to see a vision of the book brought to life.

As someone who watched this movie through the eyes as someone who has read the book, it is a different experience than those who have not. A chance to come in fresh with no preconceptions did not occur her.

The good news is that seeing this adaptation will not spoil the experience of reading the book. Like some other adaptations. As a film in its own right, it is well worth a look. “The Host” illustrates an essential message about how choosing love can help you overcome a lot of life's adversities and that kind of story is in short supply these days.

Rating: 7/10

[Featured Image by Summit Entertainment]