Written and directed by Lisa Joy, Reminiscence is a brand-new sci-fi thriller released this week. The film is in UK cinemas from today, or if you live in the US, you can watch Reminiscence either on the big screen or via HBO MAX.
Reminiscence stars Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Wu, and Cliff Curtis. The movie tells the story of war veteran and scientist called Nick Bannister, who has the technology to help people relive their memories.
In the film, the world has gone through significant upheaval because of war, leaving people feeling disillusioned with their current reality. This feeling of disillusionment has created a rise in nostalgia amongst those who long for happier times, and in turn this has led to an interesting business opportunity.
Using advanced technology Nick Bannister has set up a business in which he can help individuals reconnect with happier times – by hooking them up to a machine that can immerse them in their memories. Each day, clients walk in through his door and each is given the opportunity to rewind the clock to a moment in their past.
One night, when getting ready to shut down for the day, a new client enters Nick’s office. This client is Mae – a mysterious woman who wants to utilise his technology for something very specific.
Mae has lost her keys and believes that a little memory jog with Nick’s machine will help her out. Nick agrees and soon Mae is revisiting her recent past, to discover the location of the misplaced item.
But this initial interaction between Nick and Mae leads to something more than just keys, and a romance soon develops. That is until one day when Mae goes missing, cutting short the blossoming feelings of love, and leaving Nick concerned for her welfare.
As the story progresses, Nick investigates Mae’s sudden disappearance, revisiting his own memories for clues to her whereabouts. But as he delves further into the mystery, he discovers a lot more about Mae than he expected, and uncovers something very sinister.
Last week you may recall that I reviewed the sci-fi action-comedy, Free Guy (which I really liked). During my review I explained the movie was being heavily marketed around lead actor Ryan Reynolds, and he was the main reason I got my butt to the cinema to check out the film.
This week Hugh Jackman is the reason I headed to my local cinema to see Reminiscence. The film isn’t as heavily promoted around its star as Free Guy was, but without Jackman’s involvement, it’s likely I would have skipped this film altogether.
Why? Because the promotional material for Reminiscence did little to raise my interest level. The trailer looked OK, although fairly generic to be honest, but the fact this sci-fi thriller is being dropped out in the tail-end of the summer blockbuster season is not usually a good sign.
Regardless of this, I was willing to pay the price of a cinema ticket to see Hugh Jackman, because no matter the movie, I always feel he offers value for money. And I can confirm, Jackman does indeed deliver in Reminiscence, putting in a great performance.
As for the movie itself, well, I believe it was worth the ticket price too. Reminiscence isn’t going to be for everyone, and it does have a few issues, but I found this movie to be mostly enjoyable, and better than I expected.
Addressing its shortcomings first, Reminiscence is essentially a modern-day film noir, which attempts to recapture the magic of hard-boiled detective pictures of the 1930s/1940s. It walks a fine line between paying homage to the past, while attempting something new, to create a futuristic take on the well-worn material.
This might not be a huge problem if the film was able to stay firmly on the line it is walking, however on too many occasions it steps off that line, and when it does, it finds itself firmly in cliché territory.
Some of the dialogue in this movie is very clunky, and feels as if it has been cribbed directly from an old gum shoe picture. The film is filled with huge monologues, which is in keeping with the subgenre it is referencing, but at times some of the material borders on parody.
Jackman has to deliver line after line after line, and some of it feels a bit like he’s stuck in a sketch. None of it is his fault, the film is just filled with duff lines that should have been reworked so they don’t sound so bad.
Reminiscence is also quite slow, and operates on a level that keeps things pretty sedate throughout. The pace never quickens, the suspense never mounts – it all just cruises along at a steady setting, sometimes forgetting that as a mystery-thriller, it is supposed to be ‘thrilling’.
There are a couple of action sequences, to break up all of the talking, but these sequences come and go fairly quickly. The scenes are fine, but are largely uneventful.
These aspects of the film are where Reminiscence struggles and I expect some audiences will step away before getting to the end of the movie. Yet, if you can look past these shortcomings (and I did), there is something here that I expect will work for some audiences, and certainly worked for me.
I have already noted that Jackman is worth watching, and the same can be said for fellow cast mates Thandiwe Newton and Rebecca Ferguson. They suit their roles perfectly, with Newton playing Jackman’s right-hand gal, and Ferguson taking up the part of the movie’s ‘dame’.
This movie is also worth watching for the setting and the world that has been created on film. Reminiscence might struggle with its clichéd dialogue, but the gritty noir surroundings that it creates – complete with slightly seedy nightclubs, shady gangsters, and heavy drinking – is all perfectly formed and makes everything so inviting.
There is also a very strong love story which plays out throughout the movie, that really packs a punch when it needs to. It takes some time for the love story to reach its zenith, but when it gets there, it makes the journey worthwhile.
For me, all of these positives far outweigh the negatives. And when Reminiscence is truly firing on all cylinders, it is an immersive experience, akin to the warm fuzzy feeling you get from a glass of whiskey on a cold dark night.
Reminiscence won’t be for everyone and audiences will either get into it straight away or they will not get into it at all. The way I see it, there’s no in between here, and I expect Reminiscence will struggle to make much of an impact at the moment, especially while other big movies are playing (Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad, Free Guy, etc).
But it will find its niche and will develop a loyal following – if not now, certainly in time. If you love old detective movies, or film noir, then you should definitely give it a go, because it has a lot more to offer than its ‘so-so’ trailer will have you believe.
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