Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Cory Hardrict, and more.
Directed by: Wally Pfister Written by: Jack Paglen Cinematography by: Jess Hall Music by: Mychael Danna
Premise: A terrorist group executes simultaneous terrorist acts on scientific labs and scientists working on artificial intelligence. Recent breakthroughs by one of the killed men, however, gives hope to Evelyn Caster as her own husband lays dying from a bullet laced with radioactive material. But the terrorists are still out there and want to stop them, no matter the cost. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: It was a lot of fun watching Johnny Depp as the brainy scientist later turned computer. Rebecca Hall did well as his passionate wife and scientist in her own right, despite the bad writing which pretty much left her with nothing in the second half. Paul Bettany's emotions on both sides of the issues presented were definite bright spots - well done. Kate Mara was very convincing, and even creepy, as the young terrorist leader.
2) Special Effects - Thumbs Up: Special effects were very good, though sadly most of them were nothing we've not seen before. Really nice job with the explosions and the nano repair sequences. The lab scene where we see what Will has been working on came out nicely. Best work though was with the repair work done on Martin. The little machine tubes on the med table moving about on their own was cool and creepy all at once.
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Down: Sadly, as my husband put it, the plot of the film was "Beautifully Bad". The movie's premise was interesting, but the bad science and the shortcuts, as well as the turning of Evelyn's character into a passive lump, blackened what good was in there.
Some science fallacy is usually expected in movies, but the glaring holes in this one were too large to ignore. A virus made to destroy specific code infecting most systems might bring the internet and other systems down when it first hits, but reloading the original untainted software and rebooting/repairing other systems would allow us to have technology again - not send us into a new dark age. But sadly, this is the status of the world at the point where they begin the film and eventually circle back to.
With the computing power they claim Will has, and which he continues to exponentially increase, there's no way the terrorists would have figured out where they'd gone, as he could clean up/erase transaction trails even as he made them. And since Will put the FBI onto where many of the terrorists were located so they could be apprehended, he would have known, and taken steps, to help out his friend Max. Yet he never even knew his friend had been taken.
If a bullet is so radioactive it can poison someone to death from just a graze (I'd thought from the commercials he'd taken it in the gut) half the people there with him, and especially the cops handling evidence, would have died too.
The biggest error in my opinion, however, was the character assassination of Evelyn. She was the dreamer, the one who wanted to change the world - but after Will is transferred and comes back, she soon becomes an emotionless lump. When she first discovers what else was done to Martin, all she does is say she can't deal with it. Never once mentions to Will the fact (as the woman with the determination and intelligence we were introduced to would have) that he's bypassing people's freewill. There should have been raging arguments over this alone. But sadly, much like was done to Amidala from the "Star Wars" films - a strong willed woman is presented and then turned into a turnip because her strength and intelligence was no longer convenient to the plot.
And let's not forget the fact the terrorists pretty much brought their own fears to life due to their actions - a fact no one mentions or seem to notice. As Will said, the irony that they would take life to achieve their goals of stopping the creation of artificial life was quite ironic. The fact the main instigator never paid for her crimes? Even more so.
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Some quick fights as well as explosions dot the film, so some adrenaline gets pumped into the audience here and there. Car flipping and even machine throwing thanks to the nanites livened up a few other scenes as well.
5) Locations/Cinematography - Thumbs Up: There are several gorgeous shots of nature, rivers, mountains, and some lovely CGI representations as well. The town Will picks to 'lay low' at definitely looked to need saving. But though Evelyn spoke of Will buying most of the property of the town, and the amount of work they brought to the place, I was surprised at the lack of improvement of the impoverished town. Worse, the town itself became a sore point in the bad plot when those opposed to the machine decide that's a good place to set up operations. As if Will wouldn't have put surveillance equipment on his properties? (It's even worse due to other reasons I'll leave you to discover on your own.)
Conclusion: Cool premise, horrible execution. Between the bad science and miraculous intelligence gathering efforts of the terrorists after they've ditched their electronic equipment, there sadly wasn't much to love.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Catch it on Cable)