October 10, 2014
This is Terry Gilliam’s latest. Gilliam is his own genre, and a new film from him is always cause for celebration. This is probably not one of his best, but it is fascinating, with some incredible performances from some of my favorite actors. (“Wait, who is that guy?” I asked. “That’s Matt Damon.” “WHAT?! WAAAAAAAH!” He’s so great!) Visually, like all Gilliam films, this thing is splendid. But I could have wished for an ending that more resembled an ending and not the petering out that it was.
What really fascinates me about this movie is that it’s cyberpunk. Maybe one of the better cyberpunk movies there’s ever been. Through the first half, I rather suspected it was cyberpunk — but then there’s that Matrix reference smack in the middle, that totally cracked me up, and yeah, this is cyberpunk, full stop. A great chunk of the movie is about how much of life is mediated by technology, and how abstract and sometimes baffling that technology can seem. There’s a party where everyone is dancing and smiling and having a great time, and holding a glowing tablet. Everything from dates to therapy sessions happen via computer, and main character Qohen’s job as some kind of mathematician/programmer is pretty much incomprehensible, except that it looks very much like a video game. Everything looks like a video game, and everyone’s being watched. Qohen definitely doesn’t feel a part of it all — but he also doesn’t ever really want to leave his claustrophobic world. This is cyberpunk without the adventure/messianic tropes that usually show up in cyberpunk, and I think that’s cool.