After Deja Vu, I’m reviewing another action-thriller with a nonlinear concept of time. I did watch Spider-Man 3, but it was pretty late after the release, and honestly… Do you really need to ask whether you should go watch Spidey?
Anyway, in Next Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson (stage magician name Frank Cadillac). He has the innate ability to know what is going to happen in the future – but only 2 minutes ahead, and only what directly involves himself.
Seeking to live a close-to-normal life, he has great responsibility thrust upon his great power (hmm, very deja vu phrase) when he is unwillingly involved in a terrorist plot to detonate a nuke on American soil. You got bad guys who sound British, French, Russian, German… But hmm, no Middle Eastern terrorists. Guess the EU must be really miffed over the US ignoring Kyoto!
(Off track a bit: Stephen Coonts’ novel Liberty deals with the same, highly plausible terror scenario – that missing Russian nuclear weapons are smuggled into America by terrorists through the thousands of daily cargo shipments.)
From a slow start, the movie picks up about halfway through, up to the climax. Nicolas Cage (see, that’s the problem with casting well-known actors: they overshadow the character they’re playing) uses his precognition to great effect, making you wonder if he can ever do anything wrong if he’s careful. Often, it is intentional that the viewer does not know whether something that happens is real, or just a glimpse of the future.
Action fans will probably snooze thru the build-up and (pathetic-looking Nicolas Cage trying to stir up some) romance, and wake up just for the superhero/Matrix reminiscent fighting bits. That, and towards the end, the cool visual representation of how he considers all the various possible paths to take in time.
Julianne Moore gives a good showing as the FBI agent Callie Ferris, who is smart and composed enough (and harsh and uncompromising enough) to almost nab Cage and get him to save the country. On the other female lead, Jessica Biel plays the hero’s love interest Liz, but doesn’t get to do much except look alluring, look frightened, and get in one good kick.
It must take Nicolas Cage a lot of focus in order to preview and judge the countless possibilities of the next 2 minutes, even as they change because he has considered them. That, or very good writing and plotting by the scriptwriters.
But even at the supposed-to-be heart-pumping, nerve-wracking climax, I didn’t feel very kun-cheong at all. After all, Nicolas Cage has the power all gamers wish they had in real life: The power of load game when you did something dumb, or flip ahead and peek at the outcome in a gamebook.
I mean, we all know that the hero is going to win in the end. We all know that Spider-Man will beat the bad guys and win the girl. And just as much as any other hero (Asian horror films excepted), you KNOW that Nicolas Cage is going to make it and save the day – but the nature of his sneak-peek powers spoils even that last, faintest trace of suspense.
(Mind you, pro-wrestling is more accurately thought of as a movie than as a sport. Make that a Jackie Chan movie. The outcome is scripted, you know it’s all acting and (real and painfully injurious) stunts, but it’s still fun to watch the action, comedy and overacting. But then again, you don’t know that the Rock is guaranteed to win the fight, while Jackie will eventually come up on top. One-up for WWE!)
And at the end of the movie, you’ll be treated to a twist that caused the audience to react in the following way:
You could feel the slight disappointment, cheatedness and “Ah-lah!” that makes me realize most moviegoers (my pals included) would rather the show ended with the shooting and killing.
I thought it was okay, but then again, I also went to see Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds because I knew he wouldn’t direct the movie to end with a climactic battle with lots of explosions.
Anyway, a fun enough watch if you must see something in the gap from Spider-Man 3 to Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and Shrek 3.