In Reminiscence, memories are the ultimate escape but how many times can you relive that perfect moment before you become stuck in time?
Reminiscence is an action thriller written and directed by Lisa Joy and starring Hugh Jackman, Thandie Newton and Rebecca Ferguson. It’s described as an action thriller, but this is misleading. Marketing it as an action movie is a mistake that could leave some viewers disappointed.
This film sits firmly in the ‘neo-noir’ genre, from the dark moody bars, the lead characters’ narration, the mysterious femme fatale, complete with red dress, and an investigator with a mystery to solve. Combine this with a sense of despair and desperation felt by the characters who all have complicated relationships with their pasts, and this is vintage noir territory.
Hugh Jackman is Nick, an ex-soldier turned scientist and private investigator. With help from his friend Watts (Thandie Newton), Nick can navigate the memories of paying clients and connect them with the best of their past. He also assists the police force by investigating the memories of criminals (with a valid warrant of course) or even reveal the secrets of those close to death.
Nick’s life is changed forever when he is approached for help by the mysterious Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). This encounter leads to a two-month whirlwind romance and eventually sends Nick on a spiral down a rabbit hole of lies, mistrust and deception. His colleague and only friend Watts is a tough, hard drinking functional alcoholic, one of the few in the film with no interest in revisiting her past.
While director Lisa Joy has found remarkable success with her writing and producing work on TV, (more recently being a co-creator of Westworld), Reminiscence is her feature film debut. She has managed to craft a world which feels real and ‘lived in’. There is more going on than just the lead characters issues.
The undercurrent of decent amongst the citizens bubbles away just under the surface. The city of Miami is partially submerged in water which has changed the way people travel. Extreme heat means most people stay indoors and only come out at night. Issues with police corruption, an unfair justice system, drug abuse and the vulnerable in society being neglected are threads that while not pulled, remain ever present.
Reminiscence is a film about time, obsession, and addiction. Nick becomes obsessed with finding his lost love, most characters are trapped in time. They are either running from or trying to escape their pasts, stuck in their own special moments, reliving a time where their lives were better than the grim reality and hopelessness they face now.
Hugh Jackman gives a solid performance alongside Thandie Newton and they both complement each other very well. Rebecca Ferguson does a great job of playing both victim and aggressor, is she protagonist or antagonist? Her poker face disguises her true part in this mystery until its third act.
The film isn’t fast paced by any stretch but is well suited to this style of storytelling. Nick is an investigator, so we discover new elements of the story at the same time as he does. He takes us on his journey and even when he really should just stop, we are not intrigued but curious enough to want him to keep going to see how it all fits together at the end. The revelations aren’t earth shattering but they aren’t supposed to be. This is one man’s love story, his journey to find his own truth and choose how his story ends.
Reminiscence is an enjoyable, well-crafted neo-noir thriller. As I stated earlier, the trailers’ attempt to market it as Warner’s latest blockbuster action thriller will lead many to disappointment and quite possibly some negative word of mouth from those who have gone expecting something different.
Yes, there is some action in the film, but this is not an ‘action film’. It isn’t big or flashy, the story isn’t entirely original and the some of the issues it addresses have been explored better in other films. But none of these elements detract from this slick science fiction flashback thriller, a well-crafted concept movie with good performances and an interesting premise. The idea of reliving memories, being able to feel and touch the best from your past is an incredibly addictive prospect. An impressive feature directorial debut from Lisa Joy.
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