US, 2015, 96 minutes, Colour.
Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace, Bill Pullman, Walter Goggins, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo.
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
Somebody in Hollywood may have made a bet that it would be impossible to write a screenplay for Jesse Eisenberg (always on edge and nerdy), when he would play an action hero. This could be the result of the bet - and everyone has their cake as well as eating it because Jesse Eisenberg plays a slacker-stoner as well as an action hero, all in one character!
Another famous use of the word ultra is by droog, Alex, the clockwork thug of A Clockwork Orange, indulging in a little bit of the “ultra-violence”. We may not think that this would be true of this film in the first part, but, once Eisenberg’s character, Mike, is seen like one of the killers elite, it is a bit full-on - amazing what he can do with a simple spoon as well as the technique of holding up a frying pan to deflect a bullet and its ricocheting into the attacker!
Michael lives in a small town in West Virginia, enjoys getting high, works at a store with specials on Monday (and is taking out on mon and putting intues for Tuesday). He lives with his stoner girlfriend, Phoebe, who works in a bail bond office, Phoebe, Kristin Stewart.
Then we are introduced to Langley, spy satellites, agents, program of mind altering and character ordering, placing sleepers in a community, taking mentally ill characters and transforming them into “assets”. When agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) comes to town to see Mike, so does her rival, Topher Grace, and his squad of agents and assets.
Poor Mike doesn’t know what is going on, finds he has no memories of his past, and wonders whether he is a robot. Even when the armed agents attack and Mike dispatches them, he is still bewildered, is taken to prison, handcuffed, in a cell with Phoebe only to discover that the whole town is sealed off and everyone is after him.
So, what begins as a slacker comedy, with poor Mike subject to panic attacks, even about getting on a plane to go to Hawaii with Phoebe, becomes a high-powered action show, to borrow a phrase from another series, “Kick-ass”.
Absurd and weird are two words that do come to mind as we watch all these goings on and the ultimately triumphant Mike and Phoebe, his kneeling to propose to her in the middle of all the chaos…
Mike also indulges in creating a graphic comic himself, the Astronaut Monkey (who appears in great detail during the final credits). So, what we have is a kind of pleasant backwoods story turning into a graphic novel and indulging in plenty of the conspiracy theories and activities.
1. The background of graphic novels, cartoons and sketches? Meeting CIA conspiracies?
2. The contrast between West Virginia and Langley? The ordinary town, in West Virginia, the store, homes, the streets, the airport? Langley and its offices? The town under siege, the tents and headquarters, the drones and equipment?
3. The style, real and stylised? The animation, especially during the final credits? The score?
4. The prologue, Mike and his being interrogated? The flashbacks, the overview of what had happened?
5. Mike, Jesse Eisenberg and his screen presence, nerdish, nervy? In the town, a stoner, his loving relationship with Phoebe, the routine of his life, drugs together, going to the store, the specials on Monday and Tuesday? The ring, preparing for the proposal at the right time, getting the fireworks from Rose? The plan for Hawaii, his panic attack, sickness, return, held up by the police, Phoebe’s support?
6. The introduction to Langley, Victoria Lasseter, Adrian Yates, Peter Douglas? The clashes, the programs and suppression, the agents, the mentally ill and their being trained as assets, rivalries? The satellite and identifying Mike? Victoria, the visits, the purpose, activating him, the talk over-the-counter? The arrival of the agents, Mike’s response, the deaths with the spoon? His bewilderment? Phoning Phoebe?
7. The police, stopping Mike, the arrest, in jail, the interrogation, Mike’s bewilderment? Phoebe with him, in prison?
8. Yates, the activation, Peter and his support of Victoria, orders, especially for the drone, threats from Yates, the screen and details, the military commander, Peter and his crisis, closing the computer? The sealing of the town, the further agents attacking, the further attempts on Mike, their deaths?
9. The cuffs, the escape, going to see Rose, his friends, their fear, the basement, psychedelic, the gas? Rose and the deaths?
10. Phoebe revealed as an agent, Mike hurt, fearing that he was a robot, yet the mutual love, his wanting to save her, her wanting to save him?
11. Lasseter, the explanation, Mike as a third time offender and his volunteering for the agency, his being trained, dormant, loss of memories – and the suggestions in his flashbacks and imagination? Part of the program? The only agent who succeeded?
12. Victoria Lasseter and all her efforts to save Mike? The confrontation of Yates, his vanity, clashes, a coward, the agents? Kruger as the boss, confronting Yates, shooting him?
13. Kruger, the programs, his reliance on Victoria?
14. The comic drama, the fights, Jesse Eisenberg as an action hero? The bullet and the frying pan? Proposing in the midst of the crisis?
15. The Postscript, the Philippines, Mike is secret agent, going up in the lift, the confrontation of the Chinese – and intimations of disaster?
16. The tone of the final credits – Mike’s cartoon, the monkey astronaut, animated in detail?