Stunning, imaginative visuals highlight this sci-fi thriller, an intricate story of multi-layered brainwashing that is actually better on the second and third viewing, because of its maze of plot twists that one can get lost in, and knowing the ending doesn't lessen the impact of the drama.
The brainwashing scenes are brilliant, where a group attends lectures on subjects like "processed cheese" and "shaving cream distribution", and in paranoid moments makes me wonder what might be really happening to our brains while watching the average news/entertainment + advertising fare on our televisions.
These scenes are a little like the 1962 "The Manchurian Candidate", only using futuristic technology.
Jeremy Northam is terrific as "Morgan Sullivan", whose reality gets distorted and personality split into several identities. His confusion and fear are believable, and he handles the few action sequences with aplomb. Lucy Liu is strong and beautiful as the mysterious Rita, whose coded telephone number is Job 13:17, "Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears".
Vincenzo Natali directed this award winning film with stylish flair, a sleek sophistication, and with excellent pacing and some heart-thumping tension. The cinematography by Derek Rogers is marvelous, with a rather stark look, and the score is atmospheric and lovely, by Michael Andrews.
Intriguing, well acted, and with fascinating imagery, this is more of a mental adventure than the typical "blow 'em up" action film, and deserves being seen more than once for full appreciation.
No graphic violence, no nudity, and only the occasional four-letter word make this film suitable for a large audience.
Total running time is 95 minutes.