It doesn’t take long for Reminiscence’s ambitions to become obvious. The sci-fi thriller wants to combine the Neo-noir, dystopian aesthetic of Blade Runner with the existential exploration of Inception, with a little bit of Chinatown thrown in for good measure, too. It doesn’t stop there, though.
Reminiscence is set in Miami in the not-too distant future. Not only has war divided the US, but the polar ice caps have melted, leaving the world’s coastal cities flooded, and humans mostly nocturnal because of the heat from global warming.
At the same time, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is a private investigator of the mind, who, alongside his loyal colleague Watts (Thandiwe Newton), dives into the past of his clients. But when the alluring singer Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) enters his office, Nick becomes infatuated with her. Especially after she mysteriously disappears.
Nick uses something like a sensory deprivation tank is his investigations to learn the truth about Mae, as well as to look into a plot in the underworld that becomes linked and quickly puts a target on his back.
Unfortunately, the screenplay never quite gets a handle on the various plots that are supposed to make Reminiscence a mind-bending and riveting ride. Instead, the plots tie the film into a knot of despair.
It doesn’t help that Reminiscence gets off to a rocky start, due in most part to its over-reliance on Jackman’s monotonous narration. Rather than establishing the world and its rules, all of the information is presented in a heavy-handed and long-winded manner that’s just dull. So much so that even Jackman himself sounds like he’s about to fall asleep.
Reminiscence is never able to recover from this uneven beginning. The further it dives into its plot, the more convoluted and tedious it becomes, while any attempt at being heartfelt feels tepid and cliche. Then there is the mind-numbing that is the script’s dialogue, which is so clumsy and obvious that you will find yourself rolling your eyes at its ineptness.
Thankfully, Reminiscence’s visuals are pretty good. The flooding of Miami and New Orleans, where the film is mostly set, feel visceral as well as atmospheric. It gives Reminiscence a dark and dingy aesthetic that, unfortunately, its wayward screenplay is unable to build upon.
Even Reminiscence’s pretty impressive cast are barely able to enhance the lacklustre material. Jackman, who is very clearly channelling Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, spends too much time being forlorn, desperate and out of his depth. There is also a distinct lack of chemistry between him and Ferguson. There are hints, but, ultimately, the pair aren’t given enough room to build a genuine spark or connection.
All of which means that, for most of Reminiscence’s running time, you will be counting down the remaining minutes until the cinematic muddle ends. Those that manage to persist with it, though, will be pleasantly surprised by its affecting final act.
Sure, some of its revelations are ham-fisted and predictable, but Jackman is finally given the chance to shine. He does so in a genuinely moving and energetic fashion that is severely lacking from the rest of the film.
It’s not enough to save the film. But it makes you wonder whether or not a different structure, or even a simpler narrative, might have made Reminiscence much more enjoyable. Or, at the very least, more coherent.
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