Hulu’s new psychological thriller The Mill portrays the definition of a capitalist dystopia — but the predictable plot twist and lackluster script makes it feel like a knockoff Black Mirror.
The new movie, directed by Sean King O’Grady, was released Monday as part of the streaming service’s “Huluween” promotion. The film follows Joe, a typical businessman working to provide for his wife and soon to be first born son. However, his life changes when he wakes up in a prison cell wearing his old suit and nothing but an ancient mill next to him.
There is a quick anticlimactic reveal that Joe’s captor is none other than the monopoly corporation he earnestly works for — Mallard.
The movie immediately leaves me with two questions. How could a million dollar company successfully kidnap workers for years at a time without anyone finding out? Why would it do such a thing?
My first question is answered quickly, as an omniscient female voice explains that Joe must push the mill every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. while working to reach a designated quota — an artificial intelligence generated system designed to make the prisoners more loyal employees. This new “training system” adds to the dystopian aspect of the film, but while it should leave viewers questioning whether this may be their own corporate future, the outlandish setting and weak acting just makes it unrealistic.
This film failed to evoke the same brilliantly disturbing and anxiety-inducing plots around the possible evolution of technology, which is where Black Mirror succeeded. Not only were the details throughout the film lacking, but the ending didn’t deliver that unnerving feeling I was expecting.
However, I did appreciate the added plot tension, with Joe being forced to make sure he beat the other prisoners’ scores in order to evade termination. This emphasizes Mallard’s chilling company message — “good enough isn’t good enough” — repeated constantly throughout the film, making it just a little more thrilling.
Joe’s quota rises each day, and yet he continues to meet the company’s demands as he fears this is the only way to eventually be released and see his new baby boy. This develops what I think is the most interesting part of the film — the theme that big corporations exploit their workers and trap them in a work culture where they’re forced to meet unrealistic expectations with the hopes of being promoted.
One of the biggest issues with The Mill is it is essentially a one-man show, with the one main setting being a dusty prison cell. A choice like that is dangerous as it puts more pressure on the actors and script to be captivating enough to keep audiences interested and entertained, something this film failed to do.
The potential for this film was definitely present explorationing powerful themes like capitalism and AI, but the acting fell flat. Lil Rel Howery did an adequate job with portraying a father and working man in complete emotional turmoil, but it was not enough to be worthy of almost two hours alone on the screen.
In addition, the script lacked variety, with the F-word being dropped every other line. A few times here and there makes sense, especially in a horror movie, but the way it was done was distracting and unappealing.
The film’s overarching message becomes apparent towards the end after the “surprise” is revealed. While I don’t hate this ending, I expected more.
A quality thriller should leave audiences utterly speechless, which was not nearly the case here. The underwhelming plot twist was revealed in the last ten minutes of the movie, ruining any hope that I had left. Two hours of watching a man push a mill — all for a boring ending.
Overall, the concepts explored were interesting, and while the plot had potential to be a psychological mind twisting success, this was ultimately not the case.
I would say that The Mill is not a must-watch flick this Halloween season.