August 21, 2021

Review: Derivative “Reminiscence” Offers Nothing New

Have you ever heard the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice? It certainly has more to say than Reminiscence, in which Hugh Jackman, in the lead role, mispronounces the name of Orpheus’s wife on more than one occasion.

Written, directed and produced by Westworld EP Lisa Joy, Reminiscence is a science-fiction thriller that features Hugh Jackman as former soldier Nick Bannister, now running a facility where people can revisit their memories in a tank filled with water, fantastical technology explained away with a throwaway remark. Like in so many futuristic films, the “how” doesn’t matter here.

Does Reminiscence decide on a genre? Absolutely not. After some vague, nonspecific world-building at the start, it could easily be a buddy dramedy if the story focused more on the relationship between Nick and his colleague, Watts (Thandiwe Newton, desperately trying to disguise her accent). But no — enter Mae (Rebecca Ferguson, with a surprisingly excellent singing voice). She begins a fling with Nick, which culminates in her mysterious disappearance — hence the main conflict.

I must admit, I was intrigued by the premise. Playing with time, and what’s real? I like it, even though it reminds me heavily of Inception. Hugh Jackman as a morally gray figure in a dystopian society? He’s channeling Rick Deckard from Blade Runner, but I can roll with it. And the music, by Ramin Djawadi…it’s good, but it just reminds me of his much better music from Westworld and Game of Thrones. Wait a second…

Reminiscence boils down to a very simple story: boy meets girl. Girl disappears. Boy looks for girl (but with a sci-fi twist). Jackman offers some over-dramatic, and often unnecessary narration that walks us through every single move Nick Bannister makes. It’s a decent enough mystery, but all the twists are expected, and it gets rather convoluted at times — the story could’ve worked better if it were simpler.

One-note characters, forced connections between romantic leads, and far too many rambling scenes don’t exactly add up to make a recipe for success. The most impressive thing about the film is its opening visual, where Miami is about halfway underwater. The soaring sequence brings us through the dilapidated city, and its seedy underbelly where our main characters reside. Mainly, Reminiscence just evokes memories of other, better science-fiction movies that actually pulled off their premises. I do quite enough a quote by Jackman’s character, said with the most serious tone one can imagine: “The dead don’t take phone calls.”

I can’t argue with the ending, though — it would make rewatching an entirely different experience. It may not be worth it, though…Reminiscence is, unfortunately, not a movie I would actively seek out, but it could have been much worse. The puzzle pieces are all there, and with so much potential and talent involved, it should have worked out. I just simply can’t find a memory where it did. 
[Grade: C]

Director/Writer: Lisa Joy
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis
Rated: PG-13 for strong fantasy violence throughout, language and crude/suggestive references
Available: On Demand
Fun Fact: The official soundtrack for Reminiscence features full versions of all three songs that Ferguson sings in the film.

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