The Mongrel Dogs at Sea (4): Review: Next

Insta Rating: 4 out of 5

OK, it’s a little odd to be reviewing a movie when I’m supposed to be off on a wonderful cruise. But as mentioned before I was pretty wiped out, so I decided to take advantage of the onboard movie theater and catch Next starring Nicholas Cage and Jessica Biel. I remember when this came out but I never got to see it, despite being a sucker for a Philip K. Dick movie

Nicholas plays Chris something, who was born with the very Dickesque talent of being to see the future but only his own future and only two minutes ahead. He’s making a living as a second-rate Vegas magic act and just trying to have a normal life. The only exception to the rules of his talent is that he saw Liz (Biel) at a diner some indeterminate time in the future. He’s been visiting that diner for a week trying to meet her, which he does, acting in a manner which he hopes isn’t too creepy (but which kind of is).
Unfortunately for Chris, there’s an FBI agent who’s somehow become aware of his talent and wants to use it to track down a missing Russian nuclear warhead which has been smuggled into the US. The movie is about bringing Chris around to the greater good and stopping the bad guys.

More below the fold.

Actually, I liked this movie quite a bit. I’ve never read the associated Dick story (“The Golden Man”) so I can’t say how well it conforms. But unlike most Hollywood adaptations of the author’s work, this one feels like a Philip K. Dick story (except not quite so psychoactive). The talent is done well – the camera gives essentially no hint that Chris is “in the future” until it stops and rewinds. Despite knowing the trick, the viewer is lulled several times into believing something horrific has occurred.

This is used to fantastic effect in the film’s “gotcha” ending, which was entirely worthy of Dick’s brand of madness. I won’t give anything away but suffice to say, the metaphysical rug is pulled out from under the viewer in the last two minutes of the film. Surprisingly this wasn’t frustrating or irritating; the scriptwriters have gotten the viewer to a place where this sleight-of-hand is acceptable. And for all the nay-sayers: There is a visual cue earlier in the movie that sets up the gotcha, if you’re paying enough attention. It has to do with the pupils in Cage’s eyes after a tender scene.

A lot is left unexplained – who stole the bomb? why are they setting it off in LA? – and that’s all to the good. Dick’s stories tend not to give you all the answers; sometimes they don’t give you any. And there are moments when the film bogs down into a standard find-the-bomb thriller. But the depiction of Chris’ ability, and the clever ways he learns to exploit it, make up for these deficiencies. It’s a pretty decent effort at a strange sci fi story, and well worth the eyeball time.