Omar Naim’s screenwriting and directorial debut gives us an inventive concept: the Zoe Chip, implanted in rich people’s babies’ brains and developing with them, records every aspect of their lives in glorious technicolour and Dolby Digital sound. Cutters’ (glorified morticians of sorts) jobs are to take the whole footage of a person’s life and create a promotion reel. Taking advantage of people’s grief to make money is a reprehensible pass time. This moribund and unsettling profession sees Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) as its stalwart champion.
In this chilly sci-fi fantasy, Mr. Williams’s character, Alan Hakman, is the go-to guy for people who demand the ultimate obituary. Alan works as a “cutter,” anthologizing the greatest hits from people’s memories into mini-movies that are marketed as Rememories. His digests of golden oldies splice together the happier, upbeat moments he selects from so-called Zoe Chips, nearly invisible devices implanted in people’s brains at birth that record a lifetime’s experiences. NY Times
Editing anyone’s life story, living or dead, to give a better impression is a disturbing idea. Especially so when relating to profiting from such an activity. But Williams brings his trademark effortless brilliance to the role. He plays it as one would expect any successful mortician to be played, morosely, humbly and consistently. The only times when we see him waver from this placated state is when he is talking to the daughter of a Mr Bannister, a recently deceased lawyer whose family commissioned a final cut for a ReMemory (pseudo-funeral). Bannister was also an embezzler and child molester. Here Williams is nice and friendly, rather than impenetrable and stoic. Of course, one criticism I would have of this picture is that it hints at deeper plot possibilities and then shies away from them. Hakman has seen all of Bannister’s life (somehow pinpointing these two huge moral turning points within seconds of each other). He could have done something to right this wrong but instead used the conversation to elicit information about a childhood friend of his whom he saw when watching her father’s Zoe footage.
Meanwhile, a growing movement of tattooed anti-Zoe activists, in which a former cutter and colleague of Alan’s (Jim Caviezel) has become a leader, wants to steal Bannister’s implant and expose his corporate crimes. Roger Erebert
This brings me neatly to another criticism I have of the film. There are several messy sub plots which distract from the plot and take away any momentum the plot has built up. The bizarre memory from Hakman’s youth where he and a friend walked across a shaky plank and his friend fell off, scarring Hakman for life, was an unnecessary distraction. The idea that from this, Hakman dedicated his life to correcting the wrongs of people’s pasts, somehow absorbing and absolving their sins, while corroding his own soul in a pseudo martyrial fashion is far fetched.
There are several other sub plots which add precious little to the film, like the brief romp Hakman has with Delila (Mira Sorvino), an ex girlfriend of a client whose re memory introduced us to Hakman’s profession. There is also a group of protestors led by an anti-Zoe implant cabal who have strange tattoos which are not at all explained.
If you can ignore the numerous unnecessary sub plots and focus instead on the ingenious concept and Williams’ brilliant performance, this will be an enjoyable film for all.