CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Friday, April 27, 2007

How Do I Love Thee, Nic Cage?

Nicolas Cage is one of the best actors around. He has starred in good movies, and he has starred in true shit. Yet somehow, he almost always comes away clean. And, surprisingly enough, he often does his best work in the worst movies. Which isn't to say that Next is a bad movie. It has a few moments that make the movie worth your time, and I may be the only person happy to see terroists with indistinguishable European accents, but it's a solid little film, elevated, of course, by Cage's performance.

Next, at least for a few minutes, has a major Kubrick fixation. When Cage's Cris Johnson reveals to Liz (Jessica Biel, bland as ever) that he can see into the future, he flips through a number of channels on the TV, telling her the first line on that channel. Somehow, he ends up resting on Dr. Strangelove, horribly appropriate considering the government wants him to find a renegade nuclear bomb. A massive chase follows (one of the few highlights of the film that doesn't stem from Cage being Cage), ending with Cage caught by the government. They want him to find what will happen with the nuke, and so give the film's best image.

The government, here represented by Julianne Moore, places Cage in a chair with the Clockwork Orange eyelid locks, and force him to watch . . . the news. The implication here is positively hilarious, and that's the sort of tone that Next brings to the table. If nothing else, Next is a black comedy about what can be in the world. There is something strangely funny about watching Nic Cage split into 3 to scope for bad guys.

Unfortunately for audiences, the biggest joke is on them. Next has possibly the most dissatisfying ending I have ever seen, but that makes me love it even more. After all, this is a film about manipulation. Since Johnson can see into the future, he can change it. Just as the government manipulates him to find the bomb, he manipulates everything around him, as we are shown many a time, often for a laugh. The terrorists, whom the government try so desperately to find, are actually following the government. All this toying must lead somewhere, but when it does, the audience feels cheated. It turns out we were the ones manipulated the whole time. From an outsider's perspective, it's very amusing. Unfortunately for Next, most people will not be able to remove themselves from the proceedings enough to get the joke.

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