I guess there are some SPOILERS!
Imagine you’re marketing a movie in the early 2010s. It’s a science fiction cum romance disguised political drama or thriller. But it has the advantage of starring Matt Damon, one of the world’s biggest movie stars of the era. It also stars Emily Blunt, an up and coming female star. So you give it a title and say ‘Hey check out this new political mystery/romance with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.” Wouldn’t that be enough? Then, when the rather awkward science fiction twist that comes very early in the first act would be a surprise instead of something given away by the title of the film.
Now, apparently this is based on a Phillip K. Dick story with a very similar title. I can’t speak to whether or not that story is effective, but this movie tries to sell you on the idea that everything is normal before the awkward reveal, only for the audience to know what the awkward reveal is, essentially, because of the goddamned title of the movie. Okay, I’ll stop.
But the reason I harp on this is because this film has way too much expository telling – that’s a theme with me today! – in the first act that makes me feel like the story is being explained to me and it’s the kind of thing that’s usually left to the third act, if it’s even done at all. (Good movies don’t need to lecture us as to what’s happening, though, right?) Now, putting aside that this premise is ridiculous, it would have been so much more acceptable to me, I feel, if I hadn’t known it was coming.
But unfortunately, this is probably the most ridiculous Phillip K. Dick story I’ve encountered through film. It just doesn’t hold any water. It creates so many open questions that it doesn’t resolve and, though I don’t find myself praising The Matrix too often these days, it definitely gets the manipulated real life thing a lot more right than this movie. And in part that’s because this story rests on so many of our silly little fairy tale myths about soulmates and destiny and fate, things that I cannot take seriously and haven’t been able to take seriously for years at this point.
And then they try to explain how they manipulate and don’t manipulate history. And it’s the most hilariously selective history, mostly European and totally arbitrary. Doesn’t pass the smell test.
Just a dumb, sappy Hollywood movie. Ugh.