British writer-director Noel Clarke has proven himself a inspirational talent who has continued to try new things, going from gritty young adult crime dramas like Kidulthood and its sequel Adulthood to, most recently, sci-fi horror Storage 24. Now he’s back with his most ambitious film to date, one that may not entirely work but has a cracking concept at its centre.
The plot is set in a near-future world and follows a traumatised ex-soldier (Clarke) who suffers from PTSD and who one day mysteriously wakes up in a darkened room located inside the back of a moving van along with a young boy tied up beside him. He soon discovers this is more than just a double kidnapping as he finds himself on the run from an organisation, represented by the mysterious Harkin (Ian Somerhalder), who plan to use mind control on the population.
Clarke’s film owes something of a debt to the likes of Minority Report, Looper, and even the recent Andrew Niccol against-the-clock thriller In Time. The basic conceit here is that his character only has about 10 minutes before something happens in his head and he blacks out, with him then waking up so many days later without a clue what’s happened between those times including how he got there or what to do next. It’s a clever way for the film to exist within a certain area of sci-fi but find a new angle on it and Clarke makes sure there’s enough going on to make the perpetual awakenings feel like the plot is constantly refreshing itself rather than becoming repetitive.
The actual plot itself in which we find the basic structural concept does become far fetched even by the film’s obvious fantastical approach, often relying on expository dialogue merely there to spoon-feed the audience when there’s simply no need and grinding the action to a halt in the meantime. And speaking of action, Clarke has chosen to present the fist fights in a sort of John Woo meets The Raid type fashion, with clearly choreographed moves set to sudden jolts of slow-motion. It works up until a point but sometimes comes across as being a little indulgent and purely there because it looks cool rather than serving any sort of real purpose in the plot.
Clarke’s latest film is an admirably ambitious effort to meld together different forms of sci-fi action, set far enough into the future so as to be slightly alien to us but without going overboard with tons of fancy gadget or giant spaceships, building a believably constructed world where advertising still rules the streets and whatnot. Some of the dialogue and acting isn’t great and its reach may ultimately exceeds its grasp but there’s something to be said for a film that has a killer concept and just runs with it, wherever it may take it.