Interview: Jalmari Helander and Onni Tommila of “Big Game”

Posted on June 27, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Big Game, now in theaters and on VOD, is an exciting action movie about Oskari, a Finnish kid on a solo hunting trip, who has to save the President of the United States when he is ejected from Air Force One during an attack. I spoke to writer/director Jalmari Helander and star Onni Tommila, who is also his nephew.

The President is played by Samuel L. Jackson, already a favorite of Tommila’s, because of “Star Wars.” He enjoyed talking to Jackson between takes and said he picked up some acting pointers by watching him, especially about improvising. Jackson also taught him a special handshake.

Copyright 2015 Big Zero Entertainment
Copyright 2015 Big Zero Entertainment

Jackson was a fan of Helander’s previous film, “Rare Exports,” and when he expressed interest in being in this movie, “it sounded really cool to me,” said Helander.

Shooting outdoors in the mountains posed some problems for Helander. “Of course when you are shooting outdoors and especially when we were up in the mountains it almost never goes like you had planned. We had some difficulties with the weather and it was probably the second day when we started shooting there was snow up in the mountains and things like that. So there was a lot of things not expected with the weather. We had to shoot of course anyway because we were up in the mountains and it is really expensive to get all the people up into the mountain. So we just shot the last scene of the film with the snow and we were just hoping that the snow would melt away so we could shoot the earlier scenes. On the third day of shooting and it actually did. We were very lucky with the weather but of course there were some minor changes and things like that.” Another challenge was shooting the scenes in Air Force One submerged in water. “It was in the studio. It was a big and complicated set because it involved, there was so much water in it. And when you have water and you have a lot of electricity and stuff like that it gets quite complicated but I really loved the set and it was really fun to work with it. I remember that some stunts Sam didn’t love so much because he had to lay there in the water for a long time.”

He spoke about the costume worn by Tommila. “I was trying to get the designer to somehow make Oskari look like he doesn’t belong int the forest as much as all the other Finnish guys in the beginning of the film. The Finnish hunters look like very typical outdoor, forest kind of men. I was trying to add more color to Oskari and something that he could actually wear somewhere else, probably in the school or something like that. So I was trying to make him look like he doesn’t belong there as much as everybody else. Then of course when he meets the President, who has a suit and tie stuff like that, Oskari started to look like he belonged there hell of a lot more than the President.” And the vest he wears was inspired by “Back to the Future.”

Tommila laughed when I asked him if he did any of the stunts. “I would like to say that I did but no.” As for acting, he said that the most important thing in acting is “you must jump into the character and think that you are the character so that you are in this situation right now and not pretend it.”

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Big Game

Posted on June 25, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Yes, it is basically “Die Hard” and “Under Siege” in the mountains of Finland, if Bruce Willis was a kid on a rite-of-passage solo hunting trip.  And instead of executive hostages in a big office building, the kid has to save the President of the United States, who has been ejected from Air Force One in some sort of attack we will learn more about later on.

So, the storyline is far from fresh.  But the location is, and it is excitingly filmed and engagingly performed.

Samuel L. Jackson plays President William Allen Moore, en route to a G8-style meeting when his Secret Service officer, Morris (Ray Stevenson) sends him out in a parachute pod to protect him from what appears to be an assassination or kidnap attempt, led by known terrorist-type bad guy and obvious mercenary sociopath Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus).  Meanwhile, back in the Situation Room back home, the vice president (Victor Garber), the head of the CIA (Felicity Huffman), and a national security expert (James Broadbent) are trying to locate and rescue the President.

Copyright Big Zero Film Entertainment  2015
Copyright Big Zero Film Entertainment 2015

But you probably suspect that some of the people we are supposed to be trusting will turn out not to be trustworthy, and you are right.

Meanwhile, Oskari (the nicely underplaying Onni Tommila) in on his Finnish walkabout.  He is on his own in the wilderness with a bow and arrow, expected to bring home an impressive kill.  He is under a lot of pressure, because his father is a legendary hunter.  But the bow is nearly as big as he is and the hint his father gave him about where the best spot is to find his prey.  But his father’s idea of help was not what Oskari thought.  And the big game he found was a guy in a suit who is pretty big stuff in Washington but not so powerful away from home.

Writer/director (and Tommila’s uncle) Jalmari Helander knows Hollywood movies and matches the pacing and tone of the best of the genre.  There is nothing new in the twists of the plot, but the relationship between the canny President and the unruffled boy, each with different skills, and the action sequences that are unrealistic but fun keep things entertaining.

Parents should know that this film incudes extended action-style violence, characters injured and killed, themes of treason and assassination, some strong language, and potty humor.

Family discussion: How did Oskari feel when he saw what his father left for him? What was Oskari’s biggest challenge?

If you like this, try: “Masterminds” with Patrick Stewart

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