What we have here is a classic Film Noir Private Eye drama.
At least if you ignore the fact that this is a science fiction film.
Now this is hardly a unique combination — Blade Runner did it back in the Eighties — and did it better than anyone else has since.
However, Reminiscence sets its Noir story in a world where the cities are flooded, and the general public is threatening to turn against the elites.
Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is a Private Eye of sorts in this world, an expert in helping people to find lost things. He explores their memories with the help of a machine originally built to interrogate prisoners.
Unfortunately, he falls for the mysterious singer Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). He enjoys a blissful time with her for a little while — but then she disappears mysteriously.
However, when he discovers her lurking in the memory of the gangster he’s questioning with the memory machine, he launches an all-out investigation on his own to find her, an investigation which drives away his friends and leaves him alone against his powerful enemies…
This is, in fact, a beautiful film with a great look. It may not be as dense and dramatic a future as in Blade Runner: instead it comes across as a bit too much like the real world only with added flood waters — and, for goodness sakes, it looks so very digital. But we do get a lot of smokey lighting indoors and sunny Florida outdoors.
I’ll admit that I’m not exactly convinced by their image of people just living their lives in the flooded buildings — after all, one doubts that they would remain standing in any sort of condition once exposed to the pounding of the sea and the tides — but it is a lovely image and one is often struck by the beauty of scenes, like a flooded concert hall, which our minds keep trying to remind us are just absurd.
Hugh Jackman is quite good here, playing a man who is haunted by what he did in the past, and who is comfortable in his little niche in life until Mae comes along and jolts him out of it.
However, I’m not certain that Reminiscence really works as Film Noir. It has many of the right elements, but at the end it shies away from the darkness that is the heart of the true Noir.
Or, to put it another way, the Romance elements are far more important than the Noir ones. Although, to be fair, as much as Noir is a genre about doomed men in search of dangerous women, a lot of stories do let the hero off the hook, or try to rehabilitate the deadly dame.
But not the Noirest of the Noir, those based on the works of authors like David Goodis, James M. Cain or Jim Thompson.
Mind you, the massive gunfight at about the half-way mark doesn’t fit the Film Noir Gumshoe particularly well, either: Noir is meant to be tense and uncertain but violence has a cathartic effect that relieves those tensions. Which is why so many Noir films keep the violence to a minimum and only ever let it out in short bursts.
I also need to grumble that they apparently borrowed what I personally consider one of the worst movie endings ever from a certain Steven Spielberg film — which can also be found in a certain Indie film from a few years back. I suppose it is offered as less of a happy ending here, but in context it seems even darker — and far more foolish.
It certainly doesn’t sound at all satisfying.
Still, Reminiscence is a fairly strong effort, with a certain beauty to its world, an interesting plot and a few well fleshed out characters.
Well, mostly Nick.
It’s an impressive, well-made and very watchable film.
Although it may not be entirely satisfying…