Rated: PG-13 Grade: ABCB=B+
Directed by: Lee Tamahori, who previously made XXX State of the Union, Die Another Day, Along Came a Spider, the Edge, and Mulholland Falls.
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Jessica Biel, Julianne Moore, Thomas Kretschmann, and Peter Falk.
Summary: Chris Johnson, aka Frank Cadillac, is a Vegas magician who can actually see two minutes into the future. Because of this talent, the FBI wants to use him to prevent a terrorist group from detonating a nuke in LA. Unfortunately for him, the terrorists also know about him and will stop at nothing to make sure he doesn’t stop their plan. All he wants to do is fall in love with, literally, the girl of his dreams, Jessica Biel. Now who can blame him for that?
Entertainment Value: A I love a good sci-fi time-travel action movie, and although this isn’t technically a time travel movie, it seems like it belongs in that genre rather than with the paranormal psychology movies. Philip K. Dick has had 9 movies made from his short stories or novels including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Paycheck, and Minority Report which have made over $1 billion. So I was excited when I saw that at the beginning. The storytelling technique of showing a sequence and then flashing back to show a different outcome because that was only Cage’s vision into the future was quite effective.
Superficial Content: B Drugs/Alcohol A, Sexuality B, Violence D, Language B, Illegality B. There is a relationship between Cage and Biel that becomes sexual, although very little is shown. Violence is the main issue here, including terrorists blowing a person up with explosives, a woman’s dead body lying on the floor, and many people being shot.
Significant Content: C It’s really a time-travel action film with virtually no real message or significant content other than protecting the innocent and getting the bad guy. There are themes about free choice and fate, but mostly it’s a paranormal episode of 24 rather than any sort of ethical discourse.
Artistic/Thought Value: B As I mentioned, I thought the storytelling was quite good and the device of flashing back into the past always caught me forgetting that might happen. I particularly liked the presence of Dr. Strangelove and Clockwork Orange references. This was certainly the best work from Lee Tamahori.
- Given the remarkable ability Chris has, what do you think of his way of using it? He would be described as a super-hero by any definition, but he makes a living in a two-bit magic show and playing cautiously at the casinos. What would happen to him if he revealed his talent and people believed him?
- Would you want to have his ability or not? How might it be a blessing? How might it be a burden? What would it be like to live constantly with the vivid memories of horrible things that were averted?
- How might our experience of movies be similar to or different from Chris’s experience of the future?
- In what ways do you think that the view of the future and of free will in this movie is Biblical or not?
- Do you believe that an ability like his is possible in real life? What do you think of his notion that many magicians are real paranormals hiding in plain sight? How might our assumption that they are doing merely physical things help us ignore the truly supernatural in what they might be doing?
- What do you think of coercing Chris to cooperate because of the power he has to save millions of other people? What is the difference between someone being a hero voluntarily and being forced to do the same things against his will?
Overall Grade: B+ Well worth watching, especially if your last experience of a Philip K. Dick-based movie was Paycheck.