His first feature film feeds on the same thematic obsessions as the cinema of… his brother-in-law Christopher Nolan
In a half-submerged Miami (climate change requires), Nick Bannister (played with class by Hugh Jackman) is a former soldier turned private investigator. With the help of a strange machine, he invites himself into the memory of his clients who can relive moments of their own past in 3D. When the mysterious Mae (Rebecca Fergusson as an impenetrable femme fatale) walks through the doors of Bannister’s office, she wants to use the machine for an obscure pretext. Mae will actually embark the hero on a dangerous adventure where he will have to face crooked politicians, corrupt cops and violent dealers.
Reminiscence is Lisa Joy’s debut feature and from the start, the filmmaker takes great care to display her references, as blanksings. From the voiceover to the femme fatale, through the cynical billionaire and the neon-lit sets, Lisa Joy follows in the footsteps of the great black films. A little of Chinatown, a lot of Blade runner a hint of Minority Report : the film-tribute is conscious and controlled. The filmmaker skillfully plays with clichés of the genre; she can rely on a couple of glamorous actors, and succeeds in some beautiful action sequences (including a graceful underwater scene). But it is above all of Christopher Nolan that we think of when we see Reminiscence. Lisa Joy is the sister-in-law of the director ofInception, but she is mostly obsessed with the same themes as her beau. His blockbuster-prototype thus explores the realm of dreams, examines the (devastating) effects of time and plays with superimposed narrative layers. She telescopes timelines, realities, death drives in a ballet that is sometimes confused but which always seeks to orchestrate the loss of the senses. The trouble is that his techno-thriller never really takes off, the fault of over-phoned pretexts (the femme fatale goes to the private detective because she has lost … her keys), non-existent characters and ultimately very slim. It is only at the end, when she finally touches the shore of pure mythology, that she plays with notions ultimately more literary than visual or theoretical, that she ends up finding the note of her film and her emotion. – a little too late.
By Lisa Joy. With Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton… Duration: 1h56. Released on August 25.