A private investigator searches for an unforgettable lover from his own past in Reminiscence.
“Nothing is more addictive than the past,” says private eye Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) when describing the allure of the technology essential to his vocation. This strange contraption lets clients return to past memories in vivid detail, all while allowing Bannister to see everything in 3D. He can watch these encounters, looking for details on which the subjects weren’t focused. For example, if someone loses a precious piece of jewelry, Bannister can lead the person through the day to the point where it went missing.
Bannister never thought of using this device on his own memories until former client and lover Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) disappears. His self-confidence with the technology is ironically the very thing that puts him most at risk for falling victim to its drawbacks.
Writer/director Lisa Joy creates a world that you want to explore fully. Everything about it piques your curiosity to the fullest. The characters are compelling. The visuals are breathtaking. The technology that they use is thought-provoking. This could have been a major award contender if only the plot and dialogue weren’t so woefully executed.
There are other issues. First, Joy distracts with her casting choices. She pairs Jackman with Ferguson when the two were a possible item in The Greatest Showman. She also taps into her Westworld roots by linking Thandiwe Newton and Angela Sarafyan in a scene reminiscent of their close pairing in that TV show.
The biggest distraction of all comes for those who saw and remember 1995’s Strange Days. Joy may think that she’s created something entirely new, but she hasn’t. The two films share so many distinct, uncanny similarities that pure chance seems a long shot. The final issue is that of its pacing, which loses steam in the second act, draining what little tension that it had built to that point.
Even with all of that, it’s a film that I refused to give up on. Its meaty film noir elements and drenching atmosphere nearly carry the film on their own. The final act taps into some of the early magic to end on a high. Nothing frustrates me more than a film that rides so close to the edge only to careen over it with such simple mistakes.
This is still a film worth experiencing for yourself, if only for the fascination of the concept behind it. To paraphrase Bannister: You’re going on a journey — a journey through memory. All you have to do is follow this review.