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cast: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, and Thomas Kretschmann

director: Lee Tamahori

92 minutes (12) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.40:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Mark West
SPOILER ALERT!
Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician known as Frank Cadillac - except that he's really is magical and can see two minutes into the future. This is drummed into the audience from the earliest opportunity and repeated, ad nauseum, until it suits the filmmakers to change it (which they do, liberally). Cage has had a vision of a woman, Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel), going into a certain diner at a certain time, and so he lives his life around being there, waiting for her. When she finally does turn up, he uses his skills to get to know her (which made me feel quite uncomfortable - it's not really moral or ethical to woo a woman when you know everything about her without her being aware of it and feels a bit stalker-ish here). The first time you see the trick (both in this sequence and earlier, in the casino), without quite realising it, is a genius piece of cinema sleight-of-hand but it's quickly run into the ground.

Cage is being pursued by FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore, without her customary flame-red hair or, it appears, usual abilities) who is convinced that he can see into the future - we know why this is, because she sees his adventures at a casino, but we don't know how she came to know - and that he's the one man in the world who can prevent a nuclear bomb being detonated in Los Angeles. She tracks him to the diner, gets information from the waitresses and the chase is on. Except it isn't, because Cage and Biel go to the Grand Canyon, where Biel teaches poor indigenous kids, and then onto a motel, because the road is washed out (yes, it's as contrived as it sounds). Moore tracks them there, whilst a bunch of terrorists led by Mr Smith (Thomas Kretchsmann) follow her. They're trying to kill Cage, because they know that he can see into the future, though how they know it's him who'll figure out where the bomb is - oh, my head hurt by then.

Biel succumbs to Cage's charms (stalker!), Moore catches Biel and gives her a 'mickey finn' to slip to Cage, who doesn't see this happening even though the filmmakers have stressed he can only see his future and those around him, Biel has second thoughts, and then the baddies move in.

I'm not a fan of CGI and especially not of bad CGI in a big-budget film. But when the baddies move in, there's a substantial chase sequence down into the canyon that involves large objects (a train, water tower, railway sleepers and I'm sure I saw a kitchen sink) and these are so badly rendered, they could be hand-drawn and look better. Any chance of suspense or danger is immediately wiped out as these rejects from a Wii game go flying past blithely unconcerned actors and stuntmen.

Things happen, Cage and Moore join forces and Biel is kidnapped by the baddies, who use her as a hostage. Cage sees that Biel will be blown up, and leads Moore and her crack FBI team to the docks and, finally, to the parking garage where the hostage situation will develop (in two plus hours time - see, the filmmakers changed that!).

In the old ship, Cage uses his skills to search the place and actually begins to split apart, until there are a dozen or more of him on screen. Technically, it's very good and smooth, but within the context of the film it's so jarring, it's like having a Looney Tunes sketch spliced into the middle of Leaving Las Vegas (which I actually watched on TV when this DVD was finished and it reminded me of just how good an actor Cage can be).

The baddies arrive to do their hostage thing, Cage gets the girl, Moore congratulates him and Cage says "no, I made a mistake" and then the bomb goes off! Oh my goodness, that's it, we're all doomed.

Then he wakes up, back in bed with Biel, before the chase down the canyon. Yep, the last 20 or so minutes of the film have been one of his flash-forwards. Now I can suspend disbelief with the best of them and I don't mind a film playing tricks with me, so long as it's fair and this just isn't.

Overall, the film is well made and chugs along at a nice pace. Cage is his usual action-persona self (his wig is quite amusing), Biel does well but Moore seems like a shadow of her normal self. The baddies are vicious but not particularly well defined (apart from their accents), and Peter Falk is in it so briefly, they probably shot all of his stuff over a dinner break. Lee Tamahori directs with a sure hand that works wonderfully with the dialogue sequences but (as happened with Die Another Day) he doesn't seem quite sure what to do during action sequences and either gets in so close (and so wobbly-cam) that you can't quite make out what's going on or he steps back and allows the viewer clear shots of not very good CGI. The script is okay, taken in the right spirit (apparently it's based on a Philip K. Dick short - or as the credits have it - a 'novel story'), the locations look incredible and some of the sequences - the initial casino adventure and getting to the parking garage - are well handled.

So it's not a brilliant film, by any means, but as a disengage-your-brain action adventure, it acquits itself well.
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