Hugh Jackman has never been less appealing than in this action-romance, which is at once futuristic and nostalgic and just plain wearisome.


The spotless mind: Rebecca Ferguson and Hugh Jackman


“The past is just a series of moments. Each one perfect. Complete. Beads on the necklace of time.” So drones Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister, a man who helps his clientele to access their most precious memories and have them preserved on disc. The world is reeling from the dual impact of a global war and climate change, the rising sea levels having washed away many of the world’s major cities, including London. Amazingly, New Orleans and Miami remain, where Nick searches for the love of his life, a chanteuse he knew for but a few blissful months. Nick’s previous life, romantic or otherwise, remains cloaked in secrecy, in spite of the frequent soaks he takes in his sensory deprivation tank constructed to stir one’s most cherished reminiscences.


Memory is a fascinating subject, but Jackman and co. will be eager to forget this misconceived turkey. Designed, presumably, to be a profound and stylish homage to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett – with a dystopian twist – the film is weighed down by Jackman’s leaden voice-over, in which he says things like, “memory is the boat that sails against its current.” In fact, everyone speaks in soundbites (Cliff Curtis: “When the waves came, it washed away our lives”), before yet another punch-up arrives to spare us the ludicrous dialogue.


The blame rests squarely at the door of Lisa Joy, whose first feature this is, and who wrote, directed and co-produced the sorry thing. Previously known for co-creating and directing HBO’s Westworld, the Stanford/Harvard-educated filmmaker was presumably hoping for this to be her Blade Runner. Instead, she has landed something more akin to Waterworld than The Shape of Water. Jackman, whose facial expressions run the gamut from bewilderment to dismay, has never been less appealing, snooping on other people’s memories like a corporate voyeur. Worse, his brief fling with Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), produces all the romantic chemistry of a periodic table exam. They were better together in The Greatest Showman. Sagely, Mae is described as “an idea wrapped in a tight dress” by Nick’s loyal assistant Emily (Thandiwe Newton), who obviously holds a torch for her boss. She’s the only sympathetic character in an array of strutting mannequins, even if she is an alcoholic who has abandoned her daughter. Well, nobody’s perfect.  The production designer Howard Cummings is to be commended for his waterlogged sets of Miami and New Orleans, and the CGI is impressive. But the film desperately needs real human beings to bring it to life.




Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan, Javier Molina, Sam Medina, Norio Nishimura, Roxton Garcia, Nico Parker.


Dir Lisa Joy, Pro Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, Michael De Luca and Aaron Ryder, Screenplay Lisa Joy, Ph Paul Cameron, Pro Des Howard Cummings, Ed Mark Yoshikawa, Music Ramin Djawadi, Costumes Jennifer Starzyk, Dialect coaches Jess Platt and Gabrielle Rogers.


FilmNation Entertainment/Kilter Films/Michael De Luca Productions-Warner Bros.

116 mins. USA. 2021. Rel: 20 August 2021. Cert. 12A.