Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir-scr Lisa Joy
prd Michael De Luca, Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, Aaron Ryder
with Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Sam Medina, Han Soto
release US/UK 20.Aug.21
21/US Warners 1h56

newton curtis martinez

Is it streaming?

ferguson and jackman
Deploying an over-serious noir tone, Westworld writer-director Lisa Joy sends audiences on a big-scale adventure that just about remains watchable even as plot holes get increasingly preposterous. And while some of the emotional beats hit a nerve, this remains the kind of film that's far too pleased with how clever it is while utterly failing to embrace its ridiculousness. Instead, it's content to remain blandly stylish and sporadically intriguing.
In the nearish future, Miami is mostly underwater. In an abandoned building downtown, Nick (Jackman) runs a business that helps people vividly relive their favourite memories, while for some reason he watches holographic projections of them with his assistant Watts (Newton). Then the seductive Mae (Ferguson) walks in, unable to remember where she dropped her keys. Of course this is just the start of a tangled web of romance, murder, evil property developers and hyper-addictive drugs. Plus a corrupt New Orleans ex-cop named Boothe (Curtis) who's on the prowl.
Because it lifts elements from modern noir classics like Chinatown and Blade Runner, the film has an inviting atmosphere, creating lots of ambience and big visual moments that are genuinely stunning to look at. But the beefier themes remain under-developed, which leaves limited scope for the ensuing plot trickery. This means that the twists that come along are never particularly shocking or meaningful. Although at least there's plenty of scope for achingly cool settings and effects, and lots of earnest emotion.

And of course a terrific cast. Jackman is as watchable as always as Nick, a war veteran who has somehow maintained his tight physique in this waterlogged dystopia. He also nicely conveys Nick's obsessive feelings about Mae, played by Ferguson as a fairly standard femme fatale: seductively brilliant at playing dumb. Meanwhile, the film is quietly stolen by Newton, who positively shines in a role that just about manages to be more than thankless. Watts is easily the film's most intriguing figure, and her story leaves us wanting to know more.

The premise is riddled with problems (sea levels never make a bit of sense here), while the various plot elements are constructed with attention to simplistic details, even as they demand that we suspend our disbelief. So when the film's over-explanatory voiceover and sincere dialog begin to turn sanctimonious, things get very soggy indeed. If only the filmmakers had realised that they were making two hours of mindless entertainment, perhaps we all could have had more fun with it.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuality 16.Aug.21

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