Updated: Mar 3, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson play star-crossed lovers, Nick Bannister and Mae in the noir thriller from writer/director Lisa Joy.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021; PG-13 for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “The Sunken Coast: Building a Flooded City”
RAYMOND CHANDLER, Vera Caspary and Philip K. Dick go out for a night on the town. Rachel Carson is the designated driver.
So prepare for a rocky journey of damaged detectives and tempting femme fatales. Director/writer Lisa Joy gave fellow "Westworld" alumni and set designer Howard Cummings a challenge: "I want to sink Miami!" “Reminiscence” is set in a future where global warming has run rampant and Miami has turned into a sort of neon-lit Venice. “The Sunken Coast" is a first-class lesson on world building, the most remarkable thing about this layered, future-noir mystery.
Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), former government interrogator, ekes out a living with his memory machine, a combination of sensory deprivation, drugs, electronic stimuli, and hypnosis. Aided by lean, mean Watts (Thandiwe Newton), another former soldier who runs on alcohol and anger, he navigates a sunken Miami. Business is steady, what with people who want to escape into their memories from a war and climate-ravaged existence where daytime temperatures are too hot to allow any activity except sleep. The residents of flooded Miami are nocturnal out of necessity.
(1) Miami has turned into a sort of neon-lit Venice, as global warming has run rampant. (2-4) Hank (Javier Molina), a war veteran uses Nick’s memory tank to relive his time playing with his dog before the war. Nick’s business partner and friend, Emily “Watts” Sanders (Thandiwe Newton) administered the drug to surface the memories.
Enter Mae (a sultry Rebecca Ferguson), ostensibly needing a little ride with the memory machine to figure out where she left her keys. A chanteuse at an underworld dive, she hooks Nick with her ethereal beauty and a pretty fair version of “Where or When,” the Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers’ ballad. Watts – Newton channeling a snarling Jiminy Cricket – smells a rat.
When Mae disappears after reeling Nick in, he embarks on a quest, tracking her ghost through Miami to New Orleans, uncovering murder, hard-core drugs, and an oligarchy teetering on the edge.
Lisa Joy, writer/director of “Reminiscence,” is no stranger to world-building, having written, directed, and co-created the current Emmy-winning incarnation of “Westworld” on HBO. Another cast member of the series along with Newton, Angela Sarafyan shows up in a pivotal role as a young woman who wants to relive a lost love. Cliff Curtis and Daniel Wu round out the proceedings as a bent cop/assassin and gangster, respectively.
(1) Nearly daybreak Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) enters Nick’s business. She needs a quick ride in the tank to figure out where she left her keys. (2-4) He’s hooked with her beauty and singing of “Where or When,” the Hart & Rodgers ballad. (5) Nick heads to his apartment as the sun rises over Miami. New Orleans subs for the South Flordia city.
Most effects are practical and there’s a lot of night shoots. That said, everything is well lit and I didn’t do much squinting during the deluge of night scenes. Cinematographer Paul Cameron and director Lisa Joy decided on Sony’s VENICE digital camera mounted with Cooke anamorphic lenses (2.39:1 aspect ratio), because of its excellent low light capturing. The digital files were mastered in 4K and graded with Dolby Vision, and it’s a standout with rich color, detail, and texture. Live-action and CGI blend well together. Complexions are varied and natural. Low and high contrast is good, and blacks are solid, within the film’s whiskey-amber palette. Some moments absolutely glow.
Production Designer Howard Cummings (HBO “Westworld,” “I Am Legend” (2007), and Art Designer Scott Plauche (“Logan,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Green Book”), with Matthew Gatlin (“Logan,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “12 Years a Slave”) create a haunting future-noir setting in the submerged Miami ranging from neon-opulent to ghetto-like landscapes and interiors. “Reminiscence” appears both oppressively authentic and dream-like where a bleak future wars against heightened nostalgia.
Sound from the Dolby Atmos track, available on the 4K and Blu-ray discs, is good and clean. My 67-year-old ears had no problem at all. It’s a well-balanced delivery of dialogue, effects, and score by Ramin Djawadi, who also composed for “Game of Thrones,” “Iron Man” and “Westworld.”
(1-3) Nick finds Mae at a South Beach Sunken Coast nightclub singing the same ballad. (4-7) They need up at Mae’s apartment, but is it just a memory?
Warner provides five bonus features, available on the Blu-ray disc and through digital code (Movies Anywhere and Apple). Director/writer Lisa Joy and her ”Westworld” alumni compare production notes in “Reminiscence Family Reunion: The Westworld Team Meets Again.” “Crafting A Memory” takes a look behind the scenes. This is a good examination of how the "memory machine" worked through a combination of screen projection on fine mesh, multiple cameras and LOTS of math – along with Hugh Jackman’s acting ability. “You’re Going on A Journey” is an exploration of the memory sequences – the how and the why of the "memory machine" and its operators.
Also find “The Sunken Coast,” showing how the submerged Miami was created, and “Save My Love,” a music video made by Amber Mark and Lonr for the film. The digital code page has a little, personal letter from Lisa Joy explaining how she came to create "Reminiscence" and the world it's in.
Joy also provides a letter inserted in the 4K set. She starts off with her personal story, eight years ago, when she was pregnant, unemployed, “and at a great crossroads in my life.” She was grieving the loss of her grandfather who lived in northern Great Britain. She found an old faded photograph while going through his belonging of a woman taken decades earlier. “On the back, in my grandfather’s hand was written ‘Suki Lin.’”
(1-4) Nick dives deeper into his memory tank to surface Mae, a complicated character who keeps Nick guessing, like so many other femme fatales before her.
“There are moments in our lives that never quite leave us. People who brush through our days briefly but leave a lasting mark. We leave them behind. Move on with our lives. The past stays in the past. We can remember it through the haze of time. But we can never really go back. But what if we could? This was the starting point of ‘Reminiscence.’” – Director Lisa Joy
"Reminiscence" didn’t do so well at the box office. Critics were rather lukewarm, but I found it worth the time it took to watch. Joy said that she wanted to create a new noir film on her own terms, and I think she mostly pulled it off.
I really look forward to seeing what she does next.
— Mike Reynolds
(1) Nick’s investigation takes him to an abandoned amusement park, filmed at Jazzland in New Orleans that was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrine. (2) Nick searches for Cyrus Boothe, who recruited Mae and manipulated her. (3&4) Nick seeks the truth from Tamara "Swati" Sylvan (Marina de Tavira), the wife of Walter Sylvan, and leaves the Sylvan mansion. (5&6) Nick confronts Cyrus Boothe (Cliff Curtis). (7) Nick and Mae go down memory lane one more time.