April A-Z Challenge, April 18, Letter P: Movie Review – Paycheck (2003)

Movie Synopsis: Michael Jennings is an engineer working in a future where people will agree to work for a company on a short-term contract and then have their memory wiped after the work is complete, thereby protecting intellectual copyright for the company in question.  But when Jennings does this for a company for a 2-3 year period, he gets much more than he bargained for, when a large conspiracy has occurred, and the police are after him for something he doesn’t even know if he was responsible for in the first place.

Movie Review: This film, based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick was similar in many ways to other Dick stories.  The premise of strange future worlds, impacts of technology, and other similar themes have been raised in well-written formats by Dick in the past.  A great example of a story of Dick’s that has been brought to the screen well is Minority Report. However, unlike Minority Report, Paycheck does not achieve that level of book-to-movie success.  Although the story is interesting, the screenwriter and director John Woo (Face/Off) does a poor job in bringing the various pieces of the story together, with plot holes and unexplained scenes found all over the place.  Convenient plot devices that are highly illogical become very frustrating, such as when the dangerous “bad guys” have guns pointed at the main character’s head, yet wait for several seconds and then just when they are about to finally fire their weapon, something happens that lets the main character slip away.  It was scenes like this that really distracted the viewer from an actually ingenious premise.  Another problem was obvious in the acting of Ben Affleck (Gigli, Good Will Hunting). Affleck never really seems to become comfortable in this role, or embody the character in a believable fashion.  The viewer can see that the dialogue never really rings true coming from Affleck, and he seems most comfortable in the more action packed scenes like car chases, as opposed to the more cerebral dialogue which is central to Dick’s story. Overall, the film is very interesting, and despite Affleck not looking like he quite belongs, notable performances are made by Uma Thurman (The Avengers, Gattaca) as a mysterious scientist and Paul Giamatti (Planet of the Apes, The Truman Show) as Affleck’s best friend.  This is an interesting story and idea, but unfortunately the theatrical version of Dick’s story is not a resounding success.

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars.