Monolith Review

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One actor, one location — and one monolith. Any questions? You may have a few by the end of Aussie actress Lily Sullivan’s new film, but that’s OK… and perhaps that’s the point. In this modern era of cinema, it’s not exactly a requirement for movies to neatly tie up all their loose ends by the conclusion.




Sure, sometimes it’s a necessity, but for a psychological thriller like Monolith, we’re perhaps more concerned with the performance and thrills that come with it. After all, both these components are vital if you’re only going to show just one performer confined to a single location, a.k.a. her character’s tucked-away home far from everyone else’s reach. And that’s just what Australian filmmaker Matt Vesely does, to thrilling effect. It’s not for everyone, particularly those who would rather thrive off a more expansive effort like, say, Dune: Part Two. But we were game, and Monolith even sets up the potential for a follow-up installment down the line. Who knows?


Monolith Is Making Kubrick Proud(?)

Monolith

Monolith

4/5

Release Date
October 26, 2023

Director
Matt Vesely

Cast
Lily Sullivan , Ling Cooper Tang , Ansuya Nathan , Erik Thomson

Runtime
1hr 34min

Writers
Lucy Campbell

Studio
Black Cat White Rabbit Productions, The South Australian Film Corporation, Adelaide Film Festival

Tagline
All you have to do is listen.

Pros

  • Lily Sullivan is the only actor on-screen throughout Monolith but she keeps audiences engaged for the entire runtime.
  • A layered script delivers several notable twists audiences won’t see coming.
  • Monolith leaves viewers wanting to return for a second viewing.
Cons

  • The subject matter is somewhat simple, given the premise and use of a single actor/location.


In Evil Dead Rise (2023), Lily Sullivan pulled off a flawless American accent as she teamed up with Sam Raimi for yet another acclaimed film for the blood-soaked franchise. With Monolith, there are indeed a handful of gritty, somewhat grotesque moments to come, a la Evil Dead vibes, but it’s a much more sterile, psychologically focused endeavor that offers the Australian performer, using her native accent, a chance to expand her reach as an actor. One could even see this new movie of hers being adapted to the stage as a one-woman show down the line.

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Yes, the rumors are true: Sullivan is the only actor you see on-screen for Monolith in its entirety. That’s not exactly spoiling any surprises if you’ve already read about the hype or seen the film’s promotional trailer. The word “claustrophobic” has been used to describe this movie, though the sensation is no match for the more-cramped feel of classics like Die Hard and even the new Amazon original film Trunk – Locked In that’s currently abuzz on Prime Video. There’s a bit more “room” throughout Monolith, as Sullivan’s podcaster persona (who is only dubbed “The Interviewer” and whose name is never revealed, to thrilling and unnerving effect) resides in a lovely, modern house that might make the everyday moviegoer a bit jealous, i.e., “I’d love to live there!”

How’d she pull off such a fancy, schmancy home? Well, we don’t learn much about her past, even by the end, but we gather pretty early on that she was once a successful journalist who shot herself in the foot by becoming too biased. “Disgraced” is now a good word to describe her Interviewer character.


So, what’s left to do with said skillset? How about a podcast? It’s too bad there aren’t more of them out there. Just kidding. Sullivan’s character tries her hand with a “Beyond Believable” podcast that aims to track the hot, unsolved mysteries out there. The real plot kicks into high gear when she starts learning about various earthlings from around the globe, each reporting a strange, black slab appearing before their eyes. Anyone who’s seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, the timeless sci-fi masterpiece, might begin wondering here what the late, great Stanley Kubrick would think of this little plot device…

2:41

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Monolith Shares Some Similarities With Alex Garland Films

To spoil the surprises that soon follow would be a disservice to you, a moviegoer who wants to be taken on a little 90-minute thrill ride. Let’s say The Interviewer (Sullivan) soon receives a package that contains video footage of herself as a kid. Wait, what?! Time to go down the rabbit role as the little-podcaster-that-could starts mapping out where else these mysterious objects are turning up and how it’s all connected.

“We have a duty to protect the public,” she says at one point. Indeed, but at what cost? Someone get this woman a pack of cigarettes as she puffs down her supply endlessly while racking her brain about her past missteps and how it all may have led to this moment of hysteria. Just as Jake Gyllenhaal’s character quite literally becomes the story in Dan Gilroy’s masterpiece Nightcrawler, so too does Sullivan’s protagonist in Monolith.


Family secrets are unearthed, and watch out for a third act that might make acclaimed writer-director Alex Garland proud — the guy behind head-scratching films like Annihilation and Men. And sure, it’s simplistic subject matter given the claustrophobic nature of the premise, but hats off to Lily Sullivan for an utterly committed performance as a conflicted journalist in self-perpetuating turmoil. The layered script by Lucy Campbell (The Big Nothing) also helps, simultaneously setting up a world that is ultimately supernatural in nature but also relatable to all the go-getter podcasters out there who have become inspired to get their own scoop — ever since acclaimed audio series like Serial and Dr. Death hit the masses.


And it’s not just filmmakers like Kubrick and Garland who come to mind here; watch out for Shakespearean references as well. Just writing about this unnerving little feature makes us want to dive back in for a second viewing. You’re encouraged to give it at least one go-around. From Well Go USA, Monolith is now playing in U.S. theaters and on demand.

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