Next is a movie based on a classic science fiction theme, the "small" wild talent. It is based on a short story by Philip K Dick, the great science fiction writer whose stories have inspired numerous movies; works by Dick were also the basis for "Blade Runner" (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), "Total Recall" (We Can Remember It For You Wholesale), "Minority Report," and "A Scanner Darkly," among others, Nick Cage plays Frank Cadillac, a Las Vegas stage mentalist who can actually see the future; the catch is that he can normally only see his own future, and only 2 minutes ahead. He has made a life living "under the radar," exploiting his talent in minor ways, until a rare precognitive glimpse beyond his 2 minute horizon reveals to him the woman that he is destined to be with.
The film is extraordinarily well crafted, gradually introducing the audience to the nature of Frank's power. There is a terrorist nuclear bomb subplot that provides a major plot motivator. With "24" now in its 6th season, this is already beginning to seem a bit tired as a plot device. Nevertheless it keeps things moving and offers Cage's character a fundamental dilemma: what good is a 2 minute warning against a nuclear bomb? In addition, Frank is being chased by Julianne Moore as a federal agent who has figured out Frank's talent and hopes to use it to find the bomb. I found this to be the one serious plot weakness, in that there is not enough of a backstory to explain how Moore's character has become so convinced that she absolutely must have Frank on her side to stop the bomb.
Initially, we see only the effects of Frank's power as he effortlessly evades capture in some beautifully crafted chase scenes, but as the film proceeds, we begin to become privy to Frank's glimpses of the future. I can't recall whether I ever read the Phil Dick story (The Golden Man) that the film is based upon, but it introduces a type of uncertainty that Dick loved to play with, in that we become less and less certain whether we are viewing the actual present or one of the many alternative futures that Frank sees. For Frank, the future has almost a Schrodinger's Cat quality, since just by looking at his future, he changes it. There is a wonderful scene toward the end in which Frank becomes a sort of quantum cloud of alternative Franks working his way through a booby-trapped factory.
The reviews I saw for this movie were not impressive, but film reviewers have always tended to have trouble appreciating Phil Dick. I thought that it was pretty nearly perfect. The ending, which I won't reveal, might strike some as a bit of a "bait-and-switch" but I thought that it worked perfectly, because by that time I was very much into Franks mindset in which possible futures become as real as present experience. There is one scene in which Jessica Biehl's character says something like, "life should be a surprise," and Frank says wistfully, "That would be nice."
The acting is top notch. Cage clearly appreciates science fiction, and is listed as a producer, and he is very convincing as Frank. Biehl and Julianne Moore round out the strong cast.
Be sure and stay for the credits, by the way; there is a minor joke.
The concept of the two minute warning is a great one, and my only real complaint about the movie is that I'd like to see this idea played out at even greater length. Perhaps Cage will consider producing a TV series with a similar character.