TL;DR – It creates a fascinating world and engaging plot, but unfortunately, the story gets lost in places.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.
Reminiscence Review –
Tonight is one of those rare occasions where I got to walk into a film with a minimal idea of just what I was going to see. All I had to go on was the poster, which told me who was staring, that the people behind Westworld created it, and that it gave me big Sci-fi vibes. Now that I have watched it, well, that was pretty spot on.
So to set the scene, the ice caps have melted in the not too distant future, causing the sea to rise, inundating cities like London, New Orleans, and Miami. In some places, they have built giant levees to hold off the water. In others, people live on the ruins of the old world. In the chaos of the rise, wars were fought, and it is here where the technology for extracting memories first was found. Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) and his technician Watts (Thandiwe Newton) were veterans of that conflict. They now run the reminiscence technology to help people find what was lost or remember the better times. While it is not going swimmingly, it is enough to stop them from starving, but then one day, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) walks in looking for her lost keys, and Nick’s world changed in an instant.
While this film did not land with me as much as I expected because the setup is almost tailor-made for me, some aspects of the film stood out among the rest. The first is the film’s fascinating worldbuilding. From that opening pan across the flooded city, you knew that something had gone very wrong, and all times the film commits to its premise. There are very few moments that feel dry in this film, which is a combination of digital set expansion and good old fashioned wet sound stages. There were one or two spots where the lighting didn’t quite match between the digital extensions and the real sets, but on the whole, the balance works, and you believe the world you are in. I am not sure I ever got sold on the ‘we sleep during the day now’, which was a needless complication, but the flooded land, you got me in the first seconds, and I followed it all the way till the end.
The next strength comes from the film’s cast, which makes the best of the story and their role in it. You kind of feel that this was a role written with Hugh in mind because it has almost everything he is good at [bar him jumping into song at one point], and I am sure that more than a few people will be glad that the filmmakers took almost every opportunity to have him shirtless. He is the primary driver of the film, and it works the best when he is entirely into the moment. Then, of course, we have Rebecca Ferguson, who, in fact, does jump into song at one point. She is an immediate presence in the film, in who she is and the mystery around it. I wish they had given Thandiwe Newton a little more to do because it is incredible when the movie lets her kick-ass.
Where the film didn’t work for me was how it took its worldbuilding and its plot and tried to weave a story through it. I am not sure if the disjointed narrative was an artistic choice or the editing effect, but several moments just don’t gel, and a voiceover explanation can only go so far to fix it. Part of the problem might stem from Hugh Jackman’s character being both the only POV character and the person providing the worldbuilding because his actual character is entirely oblivious to the world around him, which creates some odd juxtapositions. I also would have liked them to be a bit more creative with how they used the reminiscence tech. It did feel that bar its introduction, and how they used it interestingly in the conclusion, there were some missed opportunities.
In the end, do we recommend Reminiscence? Look, honestly, that is a tough one. I did end up enjoying the film because I think they stuck the landing. But there is a lot of frustration to get through to get there. Also, the setting and theme are almost tailor-made for me, so that might have given it a boost in my eyes. What I will say is that if you like one of the actors or if a dystopian – neo-noir – sci-fi jaunt through a flooded Miami intrigues you, then give it a watch. If that does not grab you, well, then you might want to give this one a miss. If you liked Reminiscence, I would also recommend to you Bad Times at the El Royale.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Reminiscence
Directed by – Lisa Joy
Written by – Lisa Joy
Music by – Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by – Paul Cameron
Edited by – Mark Yoshikawa
Production/Distribution Companies – Kilter Films, Michael De Luca Productions, FilmNation Entertainment, Universal Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures.
Starring – Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Giovannie Cruz, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan & Nico Parker
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13