Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Based on an early Philip K. Dick short story titled The Golden Man, the movie Next leads us into the life of a man who was born with the ability to continually see his future, two minutes in advance. But, as the lead character Cris Johnson states, by looking at the future, we have already changed it. So, he has had the benefit of 20-20 foresight all his life. Cris makes a mediocre living as a Las Vegas magician (does Nicolas Cage ever leave Las Vegas?), and augments his income by gambling in a consistently winning but small way, so as not to attract too much attention. He doesn't want anyone to know that his vision is not an act.
Unfortunately, he does eventually capture the attention of one casino's security, and when Cris realizes that security men are coming to get him, he decides that it's time to cash out for the night. However, Cris's exit is interrupted by the entrance of a man who Cris knows is about to pull out a gun and start shooting. So, he tackles the gunman, only to be chased by security and the cops. What follows is the first of several fascinating chase scenes, in which Cris needs to look ahead and make swift decisions in order to avoid capture. At first, I wondered why Cris was running, since he didn't do anything, and that would become clear from the video tapes. What Cris really fears, though, is becoming a freakish tool. And, to be sure, the FBI is onto him, and they join the search for Cris Johnson. Julianne Moore is the prominent government operative.
The plot device that will make the rest of the film work is the inconsistent fact that Cris's two-minute rule is broken by one woman who Cris is yet to meet: he is continually having visions of a woman who is in a certain diner at about 8:10am sometime in his future. This woman, Liz, is to be portrayed by Jessica Biel, his future love interest.
I'll stop describing the plot right there, and will say that I found this film to be engaging and enjoyable. Cris Johnson, a man with a rather seedy lounge act and a freakish talent, is probably a creepy guy. For that reason, I think Nicholas Cage was well cast, and I mean that in the kindest possible way (his hair was appalling). However, casting a conventionally beautiful and young woman such as Jessica Biel as his love interest was a strange act. It's true that her character is not very well developed, but to make the choices she makes in this film, she would need to be unusual and a bit down-and-out, and she is presented as quite the opposite. She would not take up with this guy! I'd have cast Juliette Lewis for this role, and made her life situation harder and lonelier. Lewis has played some very strange roles and made them work.
Next has gotten its share of bad and so-so reviews, for various reasons. It certainly did occur to me that a man with Cris's talent wouldn't have to live such a bleak life, but then again, maybe he would; after all, he doesn't want any attention and he's a natural introvert, which is what makes his lounge act suck so bad. I'd recommend the movie anyway, warts and all.