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Next by Lee Tamahori (Director)
Review by Lee Strong
Paramount Film  ISBN/ITEM#: 0704Next
Date: 27 April 2007

Links: Official Site (Paramount) / IMDB Entry / Show Official Info /

If you could see a few minutes into the future, would you want to? Nicolas Cage plays a Las Vegas magician that has the gift of premonition, though he's none too happy about it. After a childhood of being prodded by government scientists he's chosen a life of relative obscurity, getting by on his talents. Then an attractive government agent (Julianne Moore) decides coopting his skills is the only way to avoid a 24 type nuclear incident in LA. But to stop the apocalypse, he's got to do more than see the future...he's got to face it. (EL)

I approached this tale of precognition with serious concern since it is based on a Philip K. Dick short story that I found rather unappealing. To my pleasant surprise, the film bears little resemblance to Dick's story – and it is much better for the lack of resemblance.

Our hero, played by Nicholas Cage, is gifted, and cursed, with the ability to foresee about 2 minutes into his personal future. Since he learned one of science fiction fandom's greatest life lessons early in childhood – no one likes geeks – he mostly uses his gift as part of a stage magic act and to win small amounts of money at a local casino. Despite his efforts to remain inconspicuous, the casino and the FBI both twig to his oddity, setting up the first of several dramatic and humorous "just in time" escapes. While he's dodging the forces of law and disorder, he saves several lives and finally meets a fabulous babe, played by Jessica Biel, whose forecoming is one of the rare exceptions to his 2 minute time limit. Meanwhile FBI agent Julianne Moore convinces her superiors that our hero is just the mutant to help them track down a rogue Soviet nuclear weapon being smuggled into the Los Angeles area. The climax is a triumph of special effects and an unexpected plot twist.

While the film is not without its shortcomings, I enjoyed it a great deal. The most interesting aspect of Next to this fan of alternate histories was the use of multiple camera shots to illustrate the alternate time tracks that result from our hero's ability to foresee the consequences of his intended actions. For example, when he finally meets the girl of his visions, he is able to role-play several possible opening scenarios until he finds the right way to appeal to her. A very clever although not unprecedented storytelling device here used extremely effectively, especially in the action climax pitting the heroes against the nuclear terrorists. As the film progresses, he discovers better control of and additional uses for his power. The result is a powerful if subtle story of people learning to use their abilities and to put strange powers to practical use. A classical science fiction concept and one that is very well realized.

The more mundane aspects of the film were also generally good as well. I thought the actors well chosen for their roles and the characters well realized. The settings were alternately faux glamour, beautiful countryside and industrial machinery. The dramatic music was excellent and really maintained the mood and pace. Some of the logic struck me as weak. I didn't see how the casino, the FBI or the terrorists really caught on to the existence of the previously unknown power. And some of the side plots could have been dispensed with. In the defense of the side plots, they did build up the humanity of the characters, making the action climax or climaxes all the more chilling.

I rate Next as 4.0 stars on the 5 star scale because it shows human beings using logic and decency to master strange abilities and to put those abilities to good use...

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