An absorbing mashup of “Altered States” and “Body Heat” with tinges of “Minority Report” and “Waterworld”, REMINISCENCE pulled me in quietly and surprised me more than once.
Hugh Jackman is very good as Nick Bannister, a former special ops soldier now running a small memory/immersion tank service. People are hungry for memories of better times in the past, especially in a future Miami that’s mostly flooded, like a gauche-neon American version of Venice.
Former soldier Emily “Watts” Sanders (the always good Thandiwe Newton of “Mission Impossible II” and “Westworld”) is Nick’s partner in the business. Revenues are declining, bigger companies are doing it better and things look bleak until the gorgeous Mae walks in at closing time. Wrapped in a long red dress and oozing Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat”, Rebecca Ferguson seems to be just looking for where she lost her car keys.
But when they put her in the tank, secrets and haunting memories emerge, hypnotizing Nick and pulling him into a dangerous mystery.
Writer/Director Lisa Joy (co-creator and writer of HBO’s “Westworld”) has created something altogether new, a 40’s film noir romance bathed in a sci-fi setting that conjures memories of “Blade Runner” if it was a lot more wet.
The Production Design by Howard Cummings is fantastic. Just as he did with Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” and ‘Westworld”, he creates a complete world that pulls you in down to the smallest detail.
If some of the class division allegories are a little clunky, they’re easily forgiven by the introduction of plenty of fringe characters to keep you guessing. Cliff Curtis (Doctor Sleep) is formidable bad guy Cyrus Booth and Daniel Wu (Tomb Raider) steals every scene he’s in as crime boss Saint Joe.
One of the biggest surprises of the film for me were the two major action set pieces that literally explode out of nowhere. I was lulled into the dark film noir mood and slow pace and then Nick meets Saint Joe and things go bonkers. Nick’s hand-to-hand battle with Cyrus near the end of the film is a monster of a fight. It’s incredibly well staged and goes on forever, it’s great to see Jackman in full on Wolverine mode against a worthy adversary.
But don’t be mistaken. This isn’t an action film.
It’s a moody, 40’s crime style romance mystery wrapped in Jackman’s narration that could have been spoken by Bogart 80 years ago. The romance is old-fashioned but dropped into a visually arresting future that keeps everything just a tad off kilter.
Jackman and Ferguson continue the strong chemistry they had in “The Greatest Showman” and fans of that film might be interested to know that really is Ferguson singing in the lounge scenes. Ferguson was dubbed for “Showman”.
The final hologram scene when Booth is in the tank is the perfect closer.
Clever, romantic and haunting, Mae and Nick’s interactions spinning around that memory set up a powerful finale.
As Nick says in one of his narrations, “Nothing is more addictive than the past. Who wouldn't want to be reunited with a loved one? Or relive the most meaningful moments of their life? But memories, even good ones, have a voracious appetite. If you're not careful, they consume you.”
Reminiscence gets a B.