This review contains spoilers. If you don't want the movie ruined, don't read any further.
I don't think there's any way to talk about this movie without giving away the secret that they throw out halfway through. Well, I suppose a real reviewer could do it.
I didn't research this before seeing it. I guess the movie is based on a true story. The previews imply some sort of mathmagician from maybe a few decades ago.
So you're watching this guy whose brain obviously doesn't work quite like everyone else'. Right off the bat I noticed that Russell Crowe used some of the same mannerisms that Brad Pitt did in Twelve Monkeys. He'd bow his head, hit his forehead with his fist or palm, and then jab a coupla fingers forward. That should have been a clue, but I didn't really catch it.
There were lots of clues like that. The secret agency is located in abandoned warehouses, but there were too many people there to hide. The "Russian codes" are embedded in several periodicals, which implies someone with absolute control over the text of each of them. There were maybe a coupla more having to do with his direct way of speaking, and possibly where he dropped off his research. And I'm sure there were some having to do with his roommate, but I missed them all.
The thing is, having missed all those clues, the movie seemed to be running off as a pretty bad cloak-and-dagger story. My mom apparently had the same reaction.
Once it became clear that he was crazy the movie mostly came back. But at that point it started move pretty quickly. They were trying to show that he had a lot of bizarre behavior, but it was kind of disjointed. They also wanted to show some important events in his life, like him connecting with other people, and taking his first class. Since those happened months and years apart it really hurt the continuity.
My mom saw some show where some researchers used VR goggles in an attempt to simulate what schizophrenics see. She said the person who demonstrated the system started out saying, "Yeah, yeah, that's pretty close." and then he ripped the goggles off and said, "That wasn't funny, guys." and walked out of the room. The researchers said that was a common reaction.
The odd thing is, the images they injected into the VR environment were not photorealistic. They were very cartoony, and they'd appear and disappear in the periphery for just a few seconds at a time. For the rest of us, it seems odd that they can't differentiate between what's real and what's not.
The movie didn't use anything like that technique. The imaginary characters were indistinguishable from real people. I know that was intentional.
I guess they needed to plant one or two more clues. Or change the setup to foreshadow what was coming. On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Rental.
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