“You’re going on a journey. A journey into the past…” As the title will suggest, Reminiscence is a film all about the past and memory. A film that despite the glossy, future noir veneer, is one firmly stuck in the past. To its ultimate detriment.
The Film Noir genre is no stranger to reinvention. Since its heyday, filmmakers have taken the archetypes & tropes and transplant them into the present or future. Classics such as Chinatown, The Big Lebowski and Oldboy. Plus modern spins like Under The Silver Lake and… Detective Pikachu.
It helps to put a fresh spin on the take. For example, Brick took the formula and placed it into a high school setting.
Here Lisa Joy, co-creator of Westworld, sticks to her science fiction roots. Set in the near future where the tides have risen and Miami is underwater, is it the first mega budget film to examine Climate Change since Waterworld? It even has a Chinatown-esque subplot about the power dynamics between rich and poor and the control of water. It also draws inspiration from Inception to set this film noir in the world of mind and memory. Her protagonist is a man who helps people access and live in their memories, but also uses it to interrogate criminals and solve crimes. He begins to lose his grip on reality when he starts to search for a mysterious woman from his own past.
Watching this neo-noir, one hears the words, not of Hugh Jackman but, of Brian Cox’s Robert McKee from Adaptation running through one’s head. “God help you if you use voiceover in your work my friends. God, help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over to explain the thoughts of a character”.
Yes, it can be seen as a deliberate callback to the film noirs of the 40s which were taking the first person narratives of the pulp fiction novels and transplanting them straight up on screen. However one just has to look at the most famous Neo-Noir of all, Blade Runner to know that extended voiceover can potentially sink a movie. There is a reason Harrison Ford sounded so resentful during the recording and it was excised for the Final Cut.
Joy should have faith in her actors that they would be able to convey the emotions and thoughts of the characters through their natural ability instead of clunky voiceover.
Jackman has already proven with Wolverine that he can play a man haunted by his past while awaking in a bath tub. but seriously, there was potential here for Nick Bannister to join other undderrated turns in the likes of The Prestige and The Fountain. After all, it is not difficult to express desperation and heartbreak for your lost love when she is Rebecca Ferguson.
The world of film noir is always a dark and murky affair so when Ferguson is on screen she is simply luminescent. She has a timeless quality to her beauty and talent that lets her adapt to any genre or timeframe. Her performance here shows that she would have been just as big a star in the Forties as she is now. Her disappearance is what kicks the film up a gear. However just like Nick, there is a Ferguson-sized hole in the audience’s heart whenever she is not on screen.
Anyone who is familiar with the tropes and nuances of the genre, or more specifically, anyone who has seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together well before the protagonist.
Reminiscence is full of potential but fails to live up to it. It aims for the heights of hard boiled film noir classic but sadly the result is nearer soft boiled. For a film all about the power of memory, the end result is ironically entirely forgettable.
Reminiscene is in UK cinemas from August 20th
Director: Lisa Joy
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thwandie Newton, Cliff Curtis
Runtime: 116 minutes