Doug’s review published on Letterboxd :
Obvious Black Mirror analogies aside, this extended episode finds director Andrew Niccol continue to languish somewhere between the aesthetic profundity of Gattaca and Lord of War and The Truman Show and the soulless and over-stylised In Time.
Gifted with another fascinating near future world where technology permeates our collective conscious and humanity, Niccol delivers a cool and slick production with the requisite lack of polish Netflix films continue to produce.
First among these criticisms is the terribly choreographed POV shots abundant throughout the presentation and which play a central role in the lacklustre narrative. One would maintain that The Rock gave more authenticity to the movements and experiences of a character in POV in 2005s Doom. They are unnaturally steady-cammed and obviously set to highlight key pieces of the narrative rather than give a genuine experience of the protagonist.
Further to this is the odd and surreal performances given by nearly all actors here other than Seyfried. Granted, the concept of having ones vision supplanted into the perspective of another's would be seriously disorienting, but the strange directorial choices granted to these actors was laughable for mine. Further to this, is the usually excellent Clive Owen, who Niccol himself admitted in an interview to having to actually 'direct' in his performance of having his memories erased. Clearly, Niccol himself played a large role in the mechanical and lifeless depiction of these murders and perspective shifting experiences.
The narrative itself is filled with all the tropes and cliches any noir detective story can be. We are introduced to Owen's cool detective with the lighting of a cigarette - a trope apparently detectives continue to do into the future. The narrative requires a lot of exposition to orient us into his world of mass surveillance and no privacy, and for the most part takes on this hefty task without much dragging the pace.
The technology side of the film is intriguing and genuine frightening given its proximity to today. And the visual effects given to depicting this network of connected consciousness is original and fairly well presented.
It is toward the end of the second act when things start to become more complex though, and our surface understanding of the world is stretched as the conspiracy evolves into something deeper than what the audience has been indoctrinated into. Our lack of comprehension of how this world fully functions leaves us filling gaps and making assumptions about the technical and interpersonal choices in the narrative.
The aesthetic adheres to Niccol's tone in other films, but some choices seemed to be made purely for stylistic reasons rather than narrative, such as the ridiculously cross shaped desk the detectives conference at. One could read into the religious metaphors here, but such metaphors could be expressed din other ways without the need for such an obviously stupid set piece.
Then we arrive at the final line of dialogue in the film, and like any good expository essay or - again - episode of Black Mirror, summarises the message of the film perfectly.
It is a shame this world was explored throughout such a needlessly convoluted and derivative genre story. The themes are as pertinent and fresh in the wake of recent social media scandals, but Niccol unfortunately continues his downward trend toward style over substance. And this is from someone who would list his 1997-2005 resume as one of the best writer/directors working today.