Review by Sean Boelman
There have been plenty of high-profile duds that have come out of high-profile television filmmakers transitioning to a feature format, and the semi-ambitious sci-fi noir Reminiscence will join their ranks. A flat script and stuffy performances put what is a genuinely intriguing concept to waste.
Set in a future world where climate change has forced the world to become nocturnal, the film follows a man who specializes in helping people relive their memories when a woman from his past becomes entangled in a mystery. What it boils down to is essentially a mix between Total Recall and Chinatown, and it is nowhere near as intelligent as it thinks it is.
The clearest issue with the movie is its pacing. The first twenty minutes are great, offering an interesting, if imperfect, introduction into this world. Then the rest of the film goes and turns into something much more derivative and less satisfying. There’s an entire sequence that serves merely to introduce a character who is reintroduced later on in a way that could have functioned well enough on its own.
Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity here is that the movie didn’t do anything more to explore its environmentalist themes. This easily could have been a parable about how our actions and obsession with technology is detrimental to our world, but instead, it has a much less interesting message about living in the present.
At times, it can be somewhat hard to believe that this is written by a woman because of how shallowly-written the female characters are. Perhaps in an attempt to replicate the overwhelming male gaze in the noir genre, the female lead of the film is mysticized in a way that nears objectification. Thankfully, the sexualization of the character isn’t overboard, but her arc is largely subservient to that of the male protagonist.
Hugh Jackman’s performance in the movie is somewhat underwhelming, which is particularly disappointing given the fact that he has been putting out some of his best work ever in recent years. Rebecca Ferguson is much better in her role, as is Thandiwe Newton, although they are both given disappointingly little to do in the film despite their amount of screen time.
The execution of the movie is also a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the world-building is magnificent and immersive, and then there are some shots that are clearly done with green screen and mediocre CGI water effects. And the score has some beautifully expressive moments followed by generic crime riffs.
Reminiscence is a massive letdown, taking an intriguing premise and instead turning it into something that is derivative of so many other, better films. It’s definitely understandable why this swing-and-a-miss was stuck with an August release date.
Reminiscence hits theaters and HBO Max on August 20.
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