Look at all the movies I'm watching!
LOOK AT THEM.
Still Bay’s best. It has the best script, the best cast, the best premise, and Bay hadn’t swerved yet into maximum Bayhem compounded by CGI. I also think this is one of the most fun Cage performances where his line readings are absolute genius. I think in the hands of a lesser performer, Goodspeed is just a nerd who becomes a tough guy, but Cage gives him an extra dimension just by making strong choices and finding that balance between nice guy and badass hero.
It starts from a fascinating place about identity. Can we trust that people are who say they are? Can we trust our own identity if everyone around us says we’re someone else? Unfortunately, the film never really wrestles with those questions because we know Julia’s captors are lying and she never buys what they’re selling. So it simply becomes a movie about how she’ll escape, which isn’t particularly interesting.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Between this and Hereditary, I’m confident saying I’m not an Ari Aster fan. On a technical level, his skill is undeniable, but it lacks artistry. Everything he does is painfully self-aware and there’s no empathy for his characters. The deaths of family members are exploited and crassly used for shock value with minimal reckoning. He’s made two movies that are ostensibly about unimaginable grief, and yet they both get bogged down in mythological bullshit. By the end, you’re no longer focused on the protagonist because of some threatening cultish other. Spare me.
The meta first act is my favorite part of the movie, but the whole vibe is sort of Lana Wachowski acknowledging studio pressure for the film to exist and then clapping back with a big, unabashed love story. Not everything works (the action doesn’t come close to the original trilogy, the Smith and Morpheus characters are undercooked), but it has a true north in the Neo/Trinity relationship and that keeps the whole movie together.