Next (2007)
Next (2007)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: April 27th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Lee Tamahori Actors: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Tory Kittles, Peter Falk, Jose Zuniga

 


 

W

ith a title like “Next,” Paramount Pictures had better be prepared for puns and ridicule – unless, of course, the film transcends the limitations of its trite name with spectacular substance and quality. But, as it turns out, it doesn’t. Nicolas Cage’s most recent actioner does, however, contain an ample amount of thrills and an intricate storyline that is surprisingly unpredictable for a movie whose main character (and therefore the audience) can see two minutes into the future, but the only thing to really take away from this movie is that, from scene to scene, it never much matters what happens next.

Based very loosely on the short story “The Golden Man” by Philip K. Dick, “Next” follows the precarious life of Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), a man both gifted and tormented by his unique ability to see a few minutes into his future. To stay off the radar of those wishing to exploit his powers, Johnson poses as a magician in Las Vegas, moderately supplementing his income with risk-free gambling. Meanwhile, FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is desperate to avoid a nuclear terrorist attack on Los Angeles, and so she begins a search for the magician in order to use his intuitive prowess to discover the precise target location. Initially unwilling to help, Cris eventually agrees to cooperate – solely to save the girl he loves from a horrifying fate. But even with his superhuman intuition and the aid of the FBI, will Cris be able to reach her in time?

A quick narration by Cage informs the viewer of Johnson’s powerful visions, setting strict parameters concerning his abilities. He can only see the events pertaining to his own life and even then, only about two minutes in advance. But in less than that amount of time later, the filmmakers break these rules to allow for every possible exception – which poses the question as to why guidelines were introduced at all.

Even with such a nonsensical premise, “Next” manages to keep the audience guessing – a feat more impressive than it sounds. But during its twists and turns, many sequences reveal suspect similarities to successful predecessors, including “Minority Report,” “The Matrix,” and “Déjà Vu.” This makes it somewhat difficult to appreciate the elements that are original, since so much of the foundation is built upon recycled ideas. Despite the source material being published in 1954, too many of the concepts have already been worked into other modern cinema efforts (a factor that plagues many famous, groundbreaking stories that are simply too late in receiving a big screen adaptation to maintain their originality).

Of the condensed cast, Cage is easily the most interesting character, not because of his presentiments, but thanks to his sarcastic humor and cocky bravado. With the ability to see the future, no matter how brief, Cris is a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to fighting or wooing Jessica Biel. Moore is adequate as the domineering FBI agent, though her talents seem wasted after her stellar performance in “Children of Men.” And Biel lends her attractiveness and little else as the mysteriously fated girlfriend, providing motivation for Cage to once again get the girl and save the world, all in less than two hours. As for the antagonists, a more standard group of villains would be hard to find, though the random mix of languages they speak – including French – is strangely atypical for Hollywood terrorists.

With a plot so outlandishly realized, and a Philip K. Dick novella as groundwork, director Lee Tamahori’s thriller seems destined for something grand. But it missteps from time to time with its narrative and tone, while also stumbling badly at the conclusion – even if that finale is equal parts inventive, unanticipated, and woefully unfulfilling. Bouts of clever dialogue and adventurous action can only go so far; an unmoving, uninspiring foray into time-disorienting science-fiction needs a sensible resolution and an adherence to the restrictions on the supernaturalism the film specifically defines – not a casual acknowledgement only when it’s convenient.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10