REMINISCENCE is set in a near-future Miami, that is a dying, semi-flooded city. The United States is in political and economic trouble, with corruption being an everyday reality. The poor are struggling, and the rich have bought-up the best places to live, literally known as the Dry Lands. Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is an investigator who helps clients find missing objects and remember important things, using a sophisticated memory machine. The device plays through a user’s mind while Nick leads the client through their recent or longer-term memory.
For the user, it is like actually being back in time. They see, hear and feel everything as though they are reliving the past. Nick watches these scenes unfold in a 3-D representation, on a small circular stage area, while the user lies floating in a tank, attached to sensors. Nick talks the user through the experience, while his assistant, Watts (Thandiwe Newton) provides technical support. Sometimes their job involves working for the police and judiciary to extract information from reluctant witnesses or criminals. Business isn’t great, but it just about pays their bills.
One day, a woman called Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), walks into Bannister’s offices looking for some missing house-keys. She is a singer at a local nightclub. Bannister is immediately taken with this striking, mysterious new client. The more he has to do with Mae, the less Bannister knows who she is.
REMINISCENCE is modelled along the lines of a classic detective tale from book and screen. It takes film noir-ish elements and combines them with our current dystopian fears, especially climate change. Bannister relates his story in voiceover which stylistically goes back to BLADERUNNER (1982) and then further back to the work of Raymond Chandler (1940s). Some of the sci-fi private-eye material is slick window-dressing and some of it is homage to the source material. Is Mae the torch singer a victim or a manipulator? Will Bannister get to the truth of the ever-expanding mystery? And just like Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories, Bannister encounters both low-life and high society as he attempts to uncover the truth.
Writer-Director of REMINISCENCE, Lisa Joy was co-showrunner of the WESTWORLD series. The world she creates here is on edge. Miami is crissed-crossed with canals. Water laps over the tops of the walls holding back the ocean. The city is so hot, the population is largely nocturnal. The system is under-pressure and no one trusts the government anymore. It’s their awful present, that drives people to seek out memories of their better days from the service provided by Bannister and Watts.
Performances are good. Jackman, Newton and Ferguson keep the mystery and intrigue ticking over. There is also a welcome appearance from Cliff Curtis as a cop with his own agenda. The movie has several decent action sequences; be prepared for Bannister to be not as useful in a fight as Wolverine. The plot is as twisty as required and doesn’t stand up to a great deal of examination afterwards. Overall, the movie is an undemanding, entertaining, 1 hour and 56 minutes at the cinema.
REMINISCENCE has memory and nostalgia as its subjects and it plays with these as other movies have; MINORITY REPORT (2002), ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) and LOOPER (2012) to name three. The danger of using the memory machine is that it can make one over-reliant, even addicted to nostalgia. REMINISCENCE suggests that too much time spent in the past will ruin anyone’s future. (7/10)