A Couch Potato’s Review of The Anomaly (2014)
A Couch Potato’s Review of The Anomaly (2014)
When it came to this particular movie, I heard nothing about it. No previews, no reviews, nothing in the newspapers, not even word of mouth from friends or Usenetters into Science Fiction. And if it’s enough to pique my interest to pick it up, it usually means it’s some sort of bomb that would make even the most casual and easily entertained of movie-goers groan in horror and eye-roll themselves into an epileptic seizure. Think movies like Battle Beyond the Stars, or Starcrash, or even Mutant Chronicles bad.
What can I say? One of the habits I picked up from my step-father is the ability to home in on the worst possible movies to watch while I idle away a few hours between the various other virtues (and vices) I have. The only difference between my step-father and I is I don’t try to entice others by saying things like “…I heard this was a good movie…” and hope they’re going to come along for the ride. No, these stinkers are only for me as I only subject myself to these sort of celluloid nightmares.
Surprisingly though, this wasn’t quite a stinker as I was expecting. Quite the opposite really. It was good. It was entertaining. While there were some glitches with the story telling, they were minor enough for me to ignore as I continued to figure out what was going on with the story
The story opens up with Ryan (played by Noel Clarke) as he finds himself unconscious on the floor in the back of an armoured car and wondering where he was and what was going on. In the back of this armoured car is also a young boy, chained up against the wall with his head covered with some sort of fabric bag. Ryan looks at his watch and realizes that he’s lost time, he’s not where he’s supposed to be and the boy’s name is Alex (played by Art Parkinson). The two of them escape from the armoured car and after a chase end up in a cemetery where Alex twists his ankle, the two of them hide from their captors. The driver of the truck catches up with them and after a surprising fight (to the audience as it’s not entirely leaked that Ryan’s ex-military), Noel beats his captor to the ground and returns to Alex hiding behind a tombstone. The boy explains that he had been abducted from his mother (who had been killed) by men in red masks and didn’t know where he was going. While Noel and Alex are trying to sort out what happened and why they were there to each of them, another of the accomplices (played by Ian Somerhalder) shows up near to them and dialing a mobile phone (this movie is clearly in the future as the phone looks like a simple piece of clear plastic), calls Noel and asks him where he is. After hanging up and putting the phone away, he begins picking through his coat pockets, first pulling out a pistol from one side, and then a red mask from the other. Alex realizes that he’s talking to one of his abductors and begins screaming blue murder. Noel begins pressing against the area just behind the ears and he (through the use of special effects) blacks out.
The story pretty much goes like this from beginning to end. You learn that Ryan is ex-military — which clearly explains his fighting prowess in certain scenes. You learn that he was being treated for PTSD for some reason (that unfolds later on in the movie). You learn that this movie is in some undisclosed future based on the buildings, the Blade Runner-esque billboard advertising floating up in the story along with the general technology used by the characters. You learn that there the villains are a father (played by Brian Cox) and son (Somerhalder) team. You learn that Ryan gets help from one of the unlikeliest places (although typical of Hollywood and only moderately typical of UK Production Companies) — a prostitute that he rescues during his “lucid” moments named Dana (played by Alexis Knapp). Finally you learn how he overcomes these black-outs which ties the story up rather nicely. And Ryan does this all within the 10 minutes each time he recovers his personality.
It’s pretty amazing all the things he learns within those 10 minutes and how much of it he remembers again when he regains lucidity. It’s also pretty amazing in the time between these moments, he finds himself in various places in the world: London, New York City, even Shanghai I think, some unspecified building with its windows boarded up, a secret lab, a secret location where he confronts who’s causing him these problems, out in the middle of a field in what feels like the middle of nowhere, a brothel with peep windows, and on and on. Even finding himself in an interrogation room on an airplane. It’s the sort of scenery choosing that lends an air of confusion when the protagonist is suddenly recovering his memory.
A sort of downside I found watching this is that while it’s good that there’s compressed time through editing, the impact of how much time that passes between these lucid moments is pretty much lessened by everything else going on. It took me a second run through of the movie for me to put together the amount of days and weeks that passed between the first occurrence and the last. There were even times you didn’t know when it was. While this isn’t too much of a detractor, it’s enough for me to pause a few moments to put it together in my head for without that timeline, it felt like a jumble between time and location.
The fight choreography in this movie is certainly better than its Hollywood counterparts (this movie was produced in the UK). None of this shaky-cam or CGI nonsense covering up the movements of the actors. And though I understand how such fight choreography works in the Western World — I really got the impression that the blows exchanged by the actors were connecting a lot harder than they actually were. There were a couple of scenes where the camera moved to odd angles in order to cover up the choreography (to maintain the illusion of realism), these change of camera angles weren’t bad enough to detract from the enjoyment of certain people getting the snot beaten out of them for being the assorted minor villains in the story (like the pimp Sergio (played by Michael Bisping) or his henchmen).
Storytelling was solid and flowed from scene to scene making it believable enough to keep me entertained without breaking the suspension of disbelief needed to make this story believable, Although I did find myself surfacing (back to reality) toward the end when I realized that the diabolical plan launched by the father and son team was a little too far-fetched for just one person to control the world in the way that they were proposing, at least the plot didn’t get far enough along for this aspect to detract from the story. I remembered when I started questioning my ability to suspend my disbelief it’s not as though the science for this diabolical plan hadn’t been introduced in the past — I remember stories dating back to the 60s that introduced something similar, so that didn’t completely distract me from the entertainment value of this film.
Looking at the credits and information on IMDB, I realized I caught that one of the piece of trivia: the picture of Ryan and his wife (shown later in the film) were of Clarke and Freema Agyeman which was used as a prop in an episode of Doctor Who where his character from that series was married to her character in an alternative timeline. No doubt Mr. Clarke was given that as a gift for the work he had done in Doctor Who and contributed it to this movie.
Bottom Line: Seeing that it had been released to US theaters, this had to have been a sleeper. One that I highly recommend to watch if you’re into science fiction and world-engulfing conspiracies. It’s entertaining, albeit a bit trite in some places (like the ending), but at least it’s not the typical insipid nonsense Hollywood grinds out ad nausea. And leaves the audience wondering, “What would you do if you were in the protagonist’s place?”