This may be a clear idea told in the most confusing way possible. Or it may be a muddled idea told in a way that exposes its lack of clarity. Or it may be an idea that keeps expanding as it goes along to the point where it’s not sure where it wants to go. Or it may be some combination of all of those – or something else entirely. It’s the first directorial effort by Wally Pfister, the cinematographer who shot Christopher Nolan’s most recent movies (“Batman” and the like) and somewhere along the way decided that he could also tackle complex topics like Nolan does. If this is any indication, he needs another movie or two behind the camera. Throughout the film, I had questions: Where are we? What just happened? Why does it seem like the two accomplished actors who play the leads – Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall — have absolutely no chemistry at all?
Along the way, Pfister tries to embed messages – about the dangers of computers, about the importance of ecology, about the absolute power of power to corrupt. Huge numbers of people – including actors of skill and reputation — are always running all over the place; many of them seem to be trying to find something to do, to figure out which side they’re on. The movie itself is kind of a mess. We are either five years before the movie began – or two years before that — or sometime in the future. We are heading toward getting everything back into balance – or not — but we know from the beginning how that turns out. The story keeps jumping around trying to gain traction and to find a consistent sense of direction. But, in the end, it’s all too silly to care about and may well leave you with just one question: What the hell was that all about?