Reminiscence is a science fiction mystery romance, but the real mystery is why this sci-fi trash was ever put into production. Maybe because HBO’s Westworld was a success, its writer and producer Lisa Joy was given a chance to write and direct a movie for WarnerMedia. In case you don’t know, Lisa Joy is married to Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan‘s brother, and this family whether related or spousal, seem to consist of pretentious, upper-middle-class twats who ironically can’t stop writing about time. The Nolan brothers we all know, are a pair of chinless wonders who bash-out wannabe-intellectual plots about time and tech like Seiko got a film deal, but what about Lisa? Well, without her brother-in-law Christopher, Lisa and Jonathan together created the aforementioned Westworld TV show, which aside from the “Kitsuya” episode, was the worst thing to happen to Michael Crichton since, err… death. It looks to me like the Nolan gene is rubbing-off on anyone they rub-up against, because after Chris Nolan’s director of photography Wally Pfister gave us the shite Transcendence, we’re now offered Lisa Joy’s Reminiscence. Joy’s debut movie is all about… wait for it… the future, where we follow a private investigator… of the mind! How very Nolanesque.
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are basically the Ocado and Waitrose of the entertainment world; one delivering the other’s snobby shite until they split, after which you’re faced with not one but two high and mighty gits and their increased output (Reminiscence is only produced by Jonathan Nolan, both writing and direction is down to Lisa Joy). Starring one-note wanker Hugh Jackman, the similarly drab Rebecca Ferguson and the talented-but-no-charisma-having Thandawie Newton, watching this collective of vanilla actors is like being invited to a middle-class dinner party from hell. Reminiscence looks like the end result of posh friends and yes-men convincing each other that what they’re creating is the pinnacle of mind-bending storytelling and the peak of poignant film-making. It’s not. Reminiscence is filled to the brim with irritatingly familiar ideas such as a future techno-dystopia (yawn) rising water levels (yawn again) and film noir (zzzzz). Okay, so this is the kind of movie that’ll probably look fine on a streaming service like HBO Max but it’s nowhere near worthy of a trip to the cinema.
One of the lines in this film is “Nothing is more addictive than the past” which is ironic since everything about Reminiscence, from its plot to its look, reminds us of better stuff from, err… the past. Like a wannabe Dark City meets Strange Days, this future-noir-with-memories plot is not as good as the former but it is as bad, if not worse than the latter. In a Minority Report meets Cloud Atlas kind of way, we have a crime to solve and a point to make about relationships and family. Unfortunately, Reminiscence isn’t anywhere near Spielberg or the Wachowskis.
With a sluggish pace and the inclusion of nonsensical 1950’s-by-way-of-2000’s stylings – cocktail dresses and white Jazz singers in dingy bars – as a contemporary noir, it’s hardly Body Heat or Devil In A Blue Dress. This is banality expressed via sci-fi drama; dark, dull, wannabe meaningful but generally silly (for a start, who would agree to their memories being seen on a huge holographic stage by a grumpy dad?). I’ll admit that there’s a couple of decent lines (one about only the rich and rats surviving the Titanic and another comment about seeing our future during our youth as dominoes – we have no idea of the things that are lined up) but the rest is just awful; there’s a middle-of-the-road muzak score and an entirely predictable ending given the amount of noirs it copies.
Set in Miami, nobody has a Floridian accent. Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister does his usual generic American accent, Rebecca Ferguson as Mae (who’s basically a crap Jessica Rabbit) does her usual posh-English thing, and god knows what accent Cliff Curtis is doing as villain Cyrus Booth. There’s a side-plot involving a drug called “Baca” which sounds daft, and it’s distributed by an unrealistic bad-guy Saint Joe played by Daniel Wu who at least attempts a New Orleans accent.
The worst part of the story isn’t the mediocre acting or the copycat-yet-amateur-looking aesthetics. The machine which brings about people’s “reminiscence” we’re told, was a tool of interrogation. Okay, so it’s basically a sensory deprivation tank but given the U.S.’s penchant for waterboarding, and human experimentation in the form of torture, this water-interrogation device is in bad taste given veterans are now profiting off it in the narrative. With a couple of vets as the leads, mentions of an “old pal from the forces”, the question “you served?” being asked numerous times, this flick looks like it was penned by one of those liberal “I’m against war but I’m pro-troop” contrived faux-lefty types, and the end result is basically more Hollywood militarism.
Jackman as a lead has always bothered me. Overly-animated when on Broadway and overly-sullen on celluloid, this Aussie hack has somehow carved a niche for himself out of the adoration of comic book nerds and musical nonces. In Reminiscence, he’s basically Wolverine without the claws; scowling for almost the entire duration of the film. The character he plays here isn’t exactly varied when you compare it to the rest of Hugh’s filmography. Nick Bannister is no Frank Bannister; the character isn’t likeable and he isn’t someone you sympathise with, and the rest of the cast are banal TV-types so there’s nothing of interest on screen unless you have a thing for high-flown nonsense. I haven’t yawned this much at the cinema in a long time.
Described online as a mish-mash of genres; the thriller aspect is non-existent, the romance portion doesn’t really work, and the exposition is so lame that you couldn’t care less about what happened to who and why. In terms of both look and content, as numerous critics have pointed out, Reminiscence is a mixture of everything from Inception, Blade Runner, and Waterworld to Maltese Falcon and Chinatown, but I’d say it’s closer to a bunch of straight-to-video oldies. Given the plugged-in mind and the apocalyptic future, this reminded me of the half-decent Mindwarp, but with the flooded town and the noir detective angle, it was also like a mixture of the godawful Split Second and Gumshoe, but since Reminiscence has a pretentious cinematographic sheen cloaking it, everyone misses the B-movie aspects. Blockbuster or schlock-flopster, the audience’s familiarity could have been an intentional nod to nostalgia which this film is partially about, but given how awful the end result is, nobody cares about all the filmic references. Whatever flick it harks back to, the audience is…
Reminiscing About Better Shit.