Miami in the near future of (major) climate change. Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is a war veteran who runs an immersion business in the past: his clients can relive their memories as if they were the present, for a time and for a small fee. Nick’s somewhat lazy and subtly self-destructive life takes a turn when he tends to Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), a gorgeous singer who lives in the flooded neighborhoods of the city.
‘Gattaca’ is back, the futuristic tale in which genetics determines lives
The first feature film by Lisa Joy, co-creator of the television version of Westworld, is an example of futuristic fantasy very marked by its vocation of revision from the imaginary of film noir. It follows in the footsteps of neoclassical examples of the genre such as Chinatown, with which it also shares a plot of power and oligarchic abuse. The work also draws on the narratives of the future of the cyberpunk literary and cinematographic, its extreme social inequalities and its technologies that turn the brain into an accessible (or manipulable) data store through artificial interfaces.
Some classics of cyberpunk literature such as Neuromancer, by William Gibson, already had obvious echoes of the crime novel. Also the genre’s grandfather, the writer Philip K. Dick, often conjured a kind of revision pulp and fantastic of those worlds. And one of the first great samples of cyberpunk cinema, Blade runner (inspired by a novel by Dick himself), winked at the mythology of the genre with its investigator (and hit man) in a raincoat who wandered through the rainy landscapes of a city of the future.
Joy and company add to the ensemble a future that connects with the fears, or realistic predictions, of our present of concern about climate change. The action takes place in a suffocatingly hot Miami and partially flooded by rising sea levels. Its inhabitants usually live at night to avoid the biggest temperature peaks.
Film noir without “blockbusterization”?
In the first minutes of Reminiscence, Bannister makes a sly comment about the benefits of going into the nostalgia business because it is something that never goes out of style. The phrase could be a joking reference to the same film, which also feeds on the past of the not to go, or that recent Hollywood caught in an eighties nostalgic loop. Now this nostalgic loop seems to be in the process of mutation: pop begins to turn the page and turn nostalgic gaze to the next decade.
Although some aspects of Reminiscence can remember thrillers from the nineties like Strange Days or New Rose Hotel and their respective fatal women who live in times to come, their authors look much further back. They try to resurrect some spaces and motifs typical of that film noir that never ends dying, but returns in one way or another, in the form of traces or updates. Joy and her team do not project a deeply revolting intention, but rather an attempt to carry out a very correct revival Spiced by the futuristic setting and its corresponding advanced machinery.
The film noir it is one of the established genres with the greatest potential to address the problems of capitalist society. And Joy and company take the opportunity to anticipate a possible or probable future issue: unequal access to the driest areas of partially flooded coastal cities. The desire to relive memories because nothing good is expected from the present or the future coexists with allusions to military or ecological crises that have become exclusive opportunities for oligarchs.
Reminiscence can boast a beautiful retro-futuristic production design. The most pleasant thing about the project is that it moves away from the saturated tolls of the action show oriented (or very suitable) for the young audience: the film does not only adhere to the images of the not to go of the forties or fifties and their revivals, but it adapts (to some extent, postmodernity obliges) to its narrative codes. In this regard, the film turns its back on the blockbuster decades: neither infinite shootings abound nor do we see spectacular chases (this is not Minority report) or cataclysmic catastrophes. We are facing a detective investigation with romance, attachment to the past and some outbursts of violence along the way.
The result can be seen as a kind of Origin without fast-paced action, with less illusionistic sleight of hand (although there are moments of indeterminacy: are we in the present narrative or in a memory?). Among some appreciable components, we can also detect inertias and uncritically assumed fashions. Scenes of happiness are involved, both when it comes to the present of the characters and their memory, the aesthetic device of a spot hipster of beers. It seems that the language of advertising has penetrated so much into our minds that Hollywood seems to have assumed that the beautiful moments of lives must have the appearance of an advertisement.
The star system won’t save us
The presences and acting works of Ferguson and Jackman play an essential role in the film. However, the prominence of Jackman and a Ferguson whom Joy and co’s camera seems to love with devotion is not avoiding the commercial bump. Reminiscence It has started its life in cinemas with extremely negative numbers, even breaking a record in the United States: it has become the least lucrative premiere in history for a film released on more than 3,000 screens.
It does not seem entirely surprising: it is difficult to imagine a mass market for this product, which does not want to seduce through the spectacle of fast-paced or overtly catastrophic action. Those responsible have invested around 65 million that are not easily recovered. And even less so in a particularly adverse pandemic context for a proposal aimed at a mature audience not accompanied by children, which marks distances with the youth or family enjoyment that seems to prevail in the current situation.
Perhaps in time, adjusted expectations, Reminiscence it will gain space as an unusual work in its context. Although the main enemy for this potential revaluation may be its correction, lacking in mordant. The technology presented by the film has a double face: the immersion in memories when a subject is connected to the machine, and the holographic visualization of these. Joy and her team seem to opt for him revival holographic of an elusive past to recover, avoiding a more visceral immersion.
It alludes to a wave of social discontent in which the protagonist does not get involved, although his investigation ends up prodding it: it is only part of a beautiful but lifeless set that does not affect the obfuscated hero too much. Even Bannister’s romantic despair, or his approach to spaces conquered by organized crime, is visualized with a cerebral tone that fits problematic with the character’s self-destructive passion. The film could remind us of futuristic fictions about emotional containment such as Gattaca, but its iciness is not justified by argument and collides with the unleashed romanticism that the proposal emanates.
Even if an interesting topic is raised (are we sure that we correctly interpret our perceptions, our experiences, even if we can review and revise them as if it were a movie?), More than one viewer will miss the agitated and agitated mood ( within Hollywood limits) of Strange Days. And this film about memory and attachment to it can fall into a certain oblivion, despite the good work of its stars. Perhaps in the not too distant future someone will ask: “What was the name of that movie where Hugh Jackman sold immersions in memories in a flooded Miami?”.