Rating: R, Time: 1hr 49min, Director: Keir Burrows, Cast on IMDb
So why review this movie from 2 years ago?
I just watched this on Hulu and have to say it is quite mesmerizing good hold on suspense. You really have no idea where the movie is going until the final scene. The beginning is a bit dry, real science before entering the world of science fiction, which is quite satisfying on the one hand with the brilliant feel of sucking you into the world we really inhabit and slowly morph it into something else.
Who are the villains?
That's the really interesting part. At first it seems to be leaning towards the animal rights protesters outside that the students are challenging, since they do run scientific tests on animals to get their research to the next stage of larger and larger animals until they do a human test. At this point, the movie starts to introduce various characters that are challenging the lead scientist Ana. First, she gets robbed with access to her laptop taken and then her friends helping out on the experiments start to act strangely as Ana starts to suffer memory issues and is writing all the events down in a notebook. Of course that doesn't help as she cannot piece it together. In this sense, its much more logical than say Momento, which also explored the problem of lapses in memory impacting human behavior.
Then Ana thinks that the human rights people, lead by James may not behind the attack, although we really aren't sure, Ana begins to suspect Liv, the scientist friend that comes up with the idea of using illegal computer power via installing a worldwide worm, so they can use the computer power of 1000s of linked computers. Being students, they have minimal access to high-powered computers, so this seems to be their only option. Ana has had a crush on the third member of the group Nate. During the final experiment, she kisses him for the very first time before being subjected to the movement experiment. Then she blacks out and cannot recall anything. At this point, she starts to suspect Liv of having seduced Nate and having had sex with him. Ana cannot piece the puzzle together having these memory issues.
Another part of the question is maybe the police are behind the initial robbery, but at the same time act as a threat to the entire group as they are part of the investigation into which students were behind the massive worm nested inside of 1000s of computers. This is another twist in the story as well, since at anytime the group could be exposed and all sent to prison. Nate and Liv are seriously worried that Ana will expose them since she has these memory lapses and likely will not stand up under questioning by the police.
Were there parts to improve in the film?
Good question. The best part of the entire film is the endless mystery that is only resolved in the final scene. In the beginning, the testing is very clinical and average student laboratory feel. They could have used fancy, shiny labs like in other films like Flatliners, but I feel this edgy laboratory really feels like students work there. In the middle of the film, my wife and I were thinking should we turn it off? There are parts where there are repeated scenes or just kind of dead space in the middle of the film. Of course, with the endless mystery with no resolution, you just resign yourself to keep watching as you really have to figure this all out. The genius of the film is it is in perspective of Ana and you feel as if you are losing your minds with her as you live through her dream flashbacks of bits and pieces of what is really going on, but not sure of anything and at the same time the growing sense of paranoia. I think with some different editing you may have added some extra creepiness into the film, but overall is well shot. You leave quite satisfied of uncovering the mystery at the end.
Do you have art inspired by this type of film?
Not exactly. However, much of my Political Pop style has the sense of 2-3 dimensions to the story after you get deeper into the image. A good example is "Ride the Dragon on the Plains of Slaves". At first glance from afar we see Morpheus, the red pill and the Matrix code behind him, so you think ok its about a sci-fi film where computers take over the world. As you get closer you see the Matrix code spells out 61398, which happens to be a computer military hacking group in Beijing sponsored by its top leadership. Then if you look further you possible victims of the Chinese patent thefts in US high-tech corporations. In the end, it is on one side the closest trade partner of the US is China, but on the same token there is a simmering Cold War of stealing patents under the surface driving Chinese economy. Now that China is entering a new decade of dicatatorship under Xi Jinping, it will be interesting how China unravels into purges under his rule or some sort of power struggle later, similar to what happened under Mao's long rule.
Ride the Dragon on the Plains of Slaves - 24x48 inches
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