Made famous by “Westworld,” director and screenwriter Lisa Joy delivers REMINISCENCE: MEMORY NEVER DIES an impressive feature film debut. Her family connections to the Nolan clan cannot be denied. In the best sense. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Reminiscence (USA 2021)
The plot summary
A few decades in the future: Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) lives on the Miami coast, which is flooded by rising sea levels. The private detective’s specialty is the human mind: he helps his clients penetrate the darkest corners of their own minds and find access to buried memories there. Bannister’s life changes radically when a new client, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), appears. He falls in love with her, but from one day to the next the beautiful woman has disappeared from the face of the earth. A simple assignment turns into a dangerous obsession. As he tries to uncover the truth behind Mae’s disappearance, Bannister uncovers a brutal conspiracy.
$68 million. This is the budget with which “Westworld” director and writer Lisa Joy made her feature film debut “Reminiscence: The memory never dies”. For most of us, of course, this is still a utopian sum. But when you consider that this is less than a third of the “Tenet” budget or just a seventh (!) of the money that went into the making of a mega-blockbuster like “Avengers: Endgame”. The idea of such a sum straightens out quite quickly. With $68 million, “Reminiscence” is in the same league as “John Wick: Chapter 3,” “22 Jump Street” and the “Charlie’s Angels” remake. And this list of a selection that plays in completely different leagues in terms of production technology shows that in the end, the only thing that matters is what you make of it. And Lisa Joy makes a lot of it. That at some point during filming – filming began at the end of 2019, but the start was postponed several times due to the corona pandemic – they were faced with the challenge mustHow you stage this or that when you simply don’t have as much money as your brother-in-law Christopher Nolan doesn’t show in the final product. Audiovisually, “Reminiscence” is one of the best directed and photographed films of this year in the A-league of large Hollywood cinemas. And even if many motifs from well-known science fiction and film noir productions can be rediscovered in the story, the end result is intoxicating in the truest sense of the word.
Water everywhere: She sees the Miami of the future.
“Reminiscence: Memory Never Dies” opens with a bombastic tracking shot over the Miami of the future. In the world shown here, rising sea levels have submerged the popular summer vacation destination. Cars no longer drive between the huge urban canyons, but rather boats and ships. You almost feel like you’re in Venice, except that there are meter-high skyscrapers all around you and the ultra-modern architecture is nowhere near as picturesque as in the Italian tourist town. Now there are enough (science fiction) films in which such a setting becomes an end in itself. And it’s understandable: when you put so much effort into designing a dystopian visual, you want to point out as often as possible how complex and well thought out everything here is. Lisa Joy sees her setting as exactly what it is: a setting. And so cameraman Paul brings in Cameron (“The Commuter”) With his emphatically calm, yet no less impressive tracking shots, which primarily focus on large panoramas, the setpieces get the most out of them; The audience has plenty of time to enjoy the set pieces, which are reminiscent of “Tenet” in their cool perfection. Nevertheless, Lisa Joy refrains from dwelling on this for too long. You don’t even know exactly how it got to this point. Even the chronology of “Reminiscence” somewhere in the 2060s can only be determined if you look very closely at one point. Joy chooses the best path with her distant approach. Ultimately, the focus of their story is on completely different things; Even if some of these also have to do with optics.
“Lisa Joy chooses the best path with her distant approach. Ultimately, the focus of their story is on completely different things; Even if some of these also have to do with the optics.”
“Reminiscence” is, first and foremost, an outstandingly beautiful film. Lisa Joy and her production designer Howard Cummings styled it to the hilt (“Magic Mike XXL”) not letting faith decide over anything. From the highly elegant wardrobe of their actors to the sometimes very simple, yet impressive details of futuristic technology to the point at which the creatives use flooded Miami to create elaborate dream worlds whose boundaries to reality are all the better liquefied in the water everything in “Reminiscence” has a purpose. Despite its return to numerous science fiction classics – “Blade Runner”, “Minority Report”, “Total Recall” and “Inception” – to name just a handful, the film is almost entirely devoid of any effects frills. “Reminiscence” has a noticeable feel, which is notable for the fact that very little CGI was used here, especially for a project like this. And when it does, it’s mainly used to create images that simply wouldn’t be possible without trick technology: That’s exactly how it should be! Despite its subject matter, “Reminiscence” can be placed in a completely different genre: film noir. Including Hugh Jackman’s protagonist Nick Bannister as a voice-over narrator and Rebecca Ferguson as a femme fatale who appears stylishly in a red dress in her first scene, who first fight their way through an explosive criminal conspiracy together and later alone.
Who is the mysterious Mae (Rebecca Ferguson)?
Cameraman Paul Cameron no longer relies on the cool, perfect photography of the world itself to stage the actual narrative plot. Whenever things get personal in “Reminiscence,” the mood changes. Suddenly, high-contrast colors, bright backlighting, lavishly furnished set pieces of intoxicating nightclubs and intimate close-ups of the figures moving within them dominate. The numerous slow motion and detailed photographs make “Reminiscence” a highly over-stylized film, which also underlines its film noir existence with the sometimes very extensive, almost poetic dialogues. It cannot be denied that the narrator’s stylistic device here primarily serves to create atmosphere. All too often, Nick Bannister simply says what we in the audience are already seeing. And yet the thoughtful, deep-voiced voice-over does not miss its purpose. You are always very close to the protagonist’s emotional world. He falls in love with the seductive Rebecca Ferguson, indulges in picture-perfect sunrises with the two of them and suddenly feels just as offended by the mysterious woman’s disappearance as Nick himself, who then starts an investigation driven by his own emotions. Without the film noir superstructure, this investigative plot would be just one of many. The milieus touched upon here, the characters inherent in them and the motivations of individual characters for this or that misdeed do not reinvent the thriller wheel. But in the staging here, it all has a continuous appeal. Lisa Joy mixes familiar things and still creates something entirely her own.
“Whenever things get personal in ‘Reminiscence,’ the mood changes. Suddenly, high-contrast colors, bright backlighting, lavishly furnished set pieces of intoxicating nightclubs and intimate close-ups of the characters moving within them dominate.”
That the film poster above all Hugh Jackman (“Greatest Showman”) coming into focus is not only understandable because of its protagonist status, but could also help “Reminiscence: Memory Never Dies” gain a boost in popularity, which could be necessary without a known original. The film has no star power behind the camera and original material has often had a difficult time at the box office recently. However, it would be wrong to reduce “Reminiscence” to its existence as a Hugh Jackman one-man show. Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”), with whom Jackman was already in front of the camera for “Greatest Showman”, occupies at least as much space as her male colleague with her significantly fewer scenes. Her paralyzing aura and her impressive elegance shape “Reminiscence” every second. Ultimately, this is far more of a Rebecca Ferguson film than a Hugh Jackman film. Of course, fans of both actors will still get their money’s worth.
Conclusion: If Christopher Nolan had taken films like Blade Runner, Total Recall and his own work, Inception, put them through a blender and then re-released them as film noirs, the result would probably have been as exhilarating a cinematic experience as Reminiscence.
“Reminiscence” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 26, 2021.