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Sep 12, 2007

The Final Cut (2004)

Robin Williams is doing some interesting films these days. Insomnia, One Hour Photo and this one, Omar Naim's The Final Cut. In it he plays Alan Hackman, a "cutter". In his world, the Zoe Implant has permitted the recording of a person's entire life from before birth to death. These memory recordings are used at death for Rememory services where highlights of the person's life are edited into a film-like presentation for the bereaved friends and relatives. Of course the conceit has its' logical flaws - why bother recording an entirely life if it's only going to be used as a show reel when you take your dirt-nap?

"Cutters" are the editors who find the footage during the life that most reassures the relatives and friends, then compile them into the Rememory Service. They cannot due to the nature of their work, can't be people with Zoe Implants. Too many secrets are held in a cutter's memory to permit them the Rememory. Williams' Hackman (yes, the name is deliberate)is tortured by a memory of a childhood tragedy which we view at the start of the film. He is withdrawn, polite and yet Williams portrays him as someone holding too many secrets for his equanimity to long endure.

He is given a commission to edit the Rememory of Charles Bannister, a lawyer who works for the company that created the Zoe Implant. (The Lady From Shanghai also has a lawyer called Bannister in it). Bannister's secrets are of a particularly dark and disgusting nature. Meanwhile, an ex-friend of Hackman's, a retired cutter called Fletcher (Jim Caviezel) heads an anti-Zoe Implant group and wants Bannister's implants for his own reasons.

This is a good SF movie. It looks at the way that a new technology influences individuals and a society. It also says something about the way our society whitewashes the deeds and character of the revered and famous dead. At the moment I'm reading Lee Server's warts-and-all biography of Robert Mitchum "Baby, I Don't Care", which I heartily recommend. The truth makes Mitchum a much more interesting person to read about than would a careful version of his life. That's one of the things that this movie doesn't address but it does touch on the possibility of perpetual surveillance It's also interesting that this breakthrough technology only enhances death and grief rather than life. All the participants at a Rememory know that it's a glossy, tabloid view of a life, and all seem to leave it vaguely guilty and dissatisfied. The denoument of the film is in the best tradition of film noir. Mira Sorvino plays Hackman's girlfriend but is crucial to both the understanding of Hackman's character and performs an act which is essential to the plot, but Williams is the heart of the movie. A good man, stifled and twisted by a trauma who eventually comes to terms with his past. Forget the next facile, flashy and phony Hollywood action-fest masquerading as science fiction. Use the same part of your lifespan to view a move like this, even if you don't have a Zoe Implant.

(Originally posted Sunday, February 20, 2005)

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