D: Noel Clarke / 97m
Cast: Noel Clarke, Ian Somerhalder, Alexis Knapp, Luke Hemsworth, Brian Cox, Ali Cook, Art Parkinson, Niall Greig Fulton, Michael Bisping
When Ryan (Clarke) wakes up in the back of a moving van and finds a young boy called Alex (Parkinson) shacked to the dividing wall, he puts aside the strangeness of the situation and helps the boy escape when the van comes to a halt. Chased by two men into a cemetery, Ryan learns that Alex’s mother has been killed by the men chasing them. He uses military training to incapacitate one of the men before a third man shows up who seems to know he is. Before he can find out any more, he finds himself in an office but older now and with a beard. Further changes in time and location happen to him and he learns that this will happen every nine minutes and forty-seven seconds.
Not knowing why this is happening to him, or why he can’t remember anything before he woke up in the van, Ryan sets about finding the truth. The mystery third man turns out to be Harkin (Somerhalder), a colleague Ryan’s host body works with. Ryan’s consciousness is being manipulated by a Dr Langham (Cox), but solar flares are interfering with the satellite link that aids Langham in controlling him; this allows Ryan his nine minutes and forty-seven seconds of autonomy. As Ryan begins to piece together the conspiracy his host body is involved in, he finds himself aided by a prostitute called Dana (Knapp). She believes his story, and his further persuaded to help him by his attempts to get her away from her pimp, Sergio (Bisping).
Harkin is attempting to sell the mind control technology to the highest bidder, while supporting a scientist (Fulton) whose DNA work has led to the discovery of a virus that will cause hideous mutations if made airborne. Both these projects can be linked in such a way that it will be possible for one man to control everyone in the world. Intent on finding Alex and rescuing him – he’s the scientist’s son – Ryan uses the knowledge he learns about the mind control programme to stay one step ahead of Harkin and two US agents (Hemsworth, Cook) who are trying to acquire the technology for their own government.
Set sometime in the future – London and Times Square are given a bit of a makeover – The Anomaly takes its sci-fi premise seriously and never lets up on the drama and the potential horror of worldwide mind control. The movie sets a grim tone early on and never really lets the viewer forget just what’s at stake, making Ryan’s search for answers and then a solution all the more dramatic. However, the movie’s structure, where Ryan moves from one seemingly disparate time and location to another every ten minutes or so, soon becomes tiresome and seems more of a concept that was committed to early on, but which wasn’t fully thought out.
Linking the various locations and characters proves to be a hit-and-miss affair, with Ryan and Dana meeting up when the script demands it rather than in any organic, credible way, and the same can be said for Harkin’s interventions as well. There’s a thread of plausibility somewhere in the movie but it’s lost amid the slo-mo action sequences – fine once but then just repetitive pieces of violent choreography that make Clarke and myriad stuntmen look clumsy – and the need to continually establish what’s going on every time Ryan’s on/off switch gets triggered. It’s a frustrating experience, peppered with the kind of dire exposition that makes it look as if the cast are having to remind themselves of what scene they’re in.
Both behind and in front of the camera, Clarke wears his usual slightly baffled look (as well he might with the material), and fails to assemble the various plot threads with any real confidence that it will all make sense by the movie’s end. He also shows a knack of putting the camera in entirely the wrong place during the action scenes (which adds to the notion that he and the stuntmen look clumsy). Clarke is a talented actor and director – he also contributed to Simon Lewis’s convoluted screenplay – but here the material defeats him, and he never shows that he has a firm grasp of how to present things.
The rest of the cast fare either badly or worse, with Somerhalder annoyingly diffident for most of the movie and then going all cruel, sadistic villain in the last ten minutes, a sea change that again seems arranged more out of necessity than as a real piece of character development. Knapp does fearful in little or no clothing, while Hemsworth’s “old school” agent is the nearest the movie comes to providing any levity. It’s Cox you have to feel sorry for, though: he’s strapped inside a perspex box with electrodes stuck to his head and no lines.
With little wit or originality on display, The Anomaly is a sci-fi action thriller that plods along, convinced of its own relevance, and yet has nothing to say beyond be careful what scientists get up to in their labs. It’s not a complete waste of time, but it will test the average viewer’s patience. And a good answer to the movie poster’s tag line, If you only had 9 minutes, 47 seconds what would you do? would be: see if I can fast forward the whole movie in that time.
Rating: 4/10 – Clarke and sci-fi prove to be unsatisfactory bedfellows in a movie where the highlight is Clarke being blasted with a fire extinguisher; The Anomaly is low budget nonsense that is rarely coherent, and “viewer discretion” should be used throughout.