In her directorial debut, Lisa Joy presents a rather pessimistic future: most of the ice caps melted, causing the water level to rise around the world, and with it, entire parts of the country and big cities disappeared. Geographical changes have been brought with their wars, and the social divides between those who survived have widened even more. Therefore, people tend to escape to a better past: this is what Nick Bannister’s (Hugh Jackman) venture offers, which, with a machine used to serve military purposes, helps us relive the finest moments of our past. Then one day, a beautiful woman (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up, and Nick helps her find her lost house key (because what’s not good for a memory-reminiscing machine!), and the air around them immediately glows. Passionate love ends one day with her disappearing without a trace, and Nick feels like something happened to him, so he couldn’t just leave her, so let’s investigate.
Film noir is a rare guest in cinemas, and sci-fi noir is rarer. Nothing is surprising since winged bounty hunter, considered the crowned king of the genre, was also a huge flop when presented four decades ago. Even though it received an arched and celebrated sequel, it also left viewers cold. It is necessary to appreciate that if one touches such a tender, only because the set-shirt makes it rare to manage it with change. What’s more, Lisa Joy is behind the new past as a writer and director who, with a reinterpreted version of Westworld, created something truly refreshing and memorable (along with her husband, Jonathan Nolan, who was a producer in this film).
At the same time, it would be a pity to expect something as complex and twisty from The New Past as it is from the HBO premiere series, and not just because of the limitations of the chosen form, i.e. the all-night film instead of the series: this time the director has come up with a much more obvious and easier-to-follow story, because if the storyline is extreme, then at least the story told should be more understandable. We can’t blame him for that for a minute: Hugh Jackman’s walk, if not intriguing, is so entertaining that he draws attention and distracts from asking questions such as if a mind is so revealing thanks to the summoner that Rebecca Ferguson immediately throws her clothes away in front of the devastation Jackman: You’re going to see everything anyway, so how come we only see what you want to see anyway? Because maybe we won’t reveal a big secret that there’s something wrong with the key-finder party, and Ferguson’s forehead has the words “femme fatale” on his forehead from the entrance, which is as essential to the noirs as the men’s characters’ lack of regular shaving and the always loosely left to tie.
But it’s not a problem at all that Joy traces the platitudes of the genre with her film. They provide a homely feeling rather than disappointing – the bigger problem is that the inner monologue, which is an indispensable prop for film noirs, is lined with eye-turning fortune-bake crumbs such as “to feel joy, to feel pain”, one-liners: the Sphinx of Special Heroes would be happy to take notes if you could hear these. And the smiley word flowers draw much more from the values of the New Past than the fundamentally predictable story and the real-life unauthorized settlement. The pessimistic future creates only an excellently realized but not very well-exploited background.
Of course, Joy can’t deny the “stable” she came from, which means the New Past also shows some twists and turns. Still, the real essence of what’s happening is more about emotion and passion – or should it be if the aforementioned things hadn’t constantly come out? Plus, this genre would have really done well with the R-rating, which would have given her more freedom to portray sporadic violence and sexuality. It was a pity to cut the coexistence of two beautiful men like Jackman and Ferguson so quickly that even the dress would not be removed from them beforehand.
Nevertheless, Jackman looks excellent in the character of the frail hero; Ferguson has proven several times that he fills the screen with magic, and we must also mention Thandiwe Newton, who plays Jackman’s assistant, who embraces one of the film’s most unhinged roles by experiencing it in such a way that we can still root for him in the end. So The New Past doesn’t break down the canvas, it doesn’t rearrange our brain coils, and despite all its boldness, it often plays a safety game, but it offers a refreshing alternative to the roaring noise of summer blockbusters.
- Hugh Jackman’s Tears, Rebecca Ferguson’s Aura
- Skilful ride of rarely seen genre
- It’s a great fictional world…
- … which will eventually remain in the background
- You could have let go of the cliché a little.
- Predictable story, smiley stuffing phrases
Despite the New Past’s pessimistic vision and melancholy atmosphere, it offers an entertaining two hours for viewers who are somewhat tired of blockbusters. His chosen genre, film noir, is thoroughly lived, rides its cliché nicely. Because of this, it sounds a bit like a security game but still offers a refreshing movie experience – thanks to the devoted play of its protagonists. But even they struggle to cope with their often lucky cake-like lyrics and fairly predictable happenings.