The Anomaly


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

The Anomaly
"Strikingly lacking in originality or sense of fun."

Noel Clarke’s latest film, The Anomaly, is an uninspiring sci-fi thriller set in the near future which is strikingly lacking in originality or sense of fun. Clarke plays ex-soldier Ryan who awakens in the back of van with Alex (Art Parkinson), a kid who has been kidnapped for reasons unknown. Ryan tries to escape with Alex, only to find himself in tow with the kidnappers before he blacks out, waking up weeks later with no memory of the intervening time.

The Anomaly bears similarity with sci-fi films of recent years such as Source Code and Edge Of Tomorrow. It turns out Ryan only has 9 mins 47 seconds each time he awakens, before he blacks out again for an undetermined period of time. Thus he must solve the mystery of the kidnapping and what’s happening to him in ten minute snatches. It differs from Source Code in the sense that Ryan doesn’t have to set the reset button each time he awakes and live the same 10 minutes over and over again. Time progresses during his ‘black out’ period, and Ryan’s life continues during these periods, although it's not him living it.

So there’s a kernel of a decent premise in there, albeit not one which is hugely original. The Anomaly fails to build successfully on this premise, however, with leaden, exposition heavy dialogue and scarcely credible yet entirely predictable narrative twists and turns. Ryan wakes up, finds himself in compromising positions (one of which includes having sex with a prostitute), gets in a fight with someone, then blacks out. Over and over again.

The prostitute in question, Dana (Alexis Knapp), rather inexplicably aids Ryan in his quest, despite knowing him for all of five minutes, during which her cloyingly tragic backstory is given in unfortunately typically lumpen dialogue better suited to Walford and Pat Butcher. Added to the prostitute with the heart of gold underneath it all are the Mad Russian Scientist and Scary Eastern European Gangsters. All that’s missing is the Asian Martial Arts Sidekick.

Which leads us onto the only redeemable feature of the film. The martial arts sequences are well handled, though occasionally over stylised. Mostly shot in long takes - and looking as if they were inspired by the brilliance of The Raid - these scenes in which Noel Clarke beats up bad guys in bone bruising fashion provide brief respite from the rest of proceedings. Although by the end of it you do wish someone would just learn to use a gun properly and end it all.

Other gripes arise from the sort of viewing pedantry only brought in to play when a film is failing. The film is set in the ‘near future’, but all that seems remotely futuristic are a couple of digitally added blimps with TV screens floating about London and New York, which otherwise are just London and New York at present. One wonders whether Annie will still be on Broadway in the ‘near future’. The only other noticeably different thing about the future is that both the NYPD and the Metropolitan’s finest perform their policing duties - quite inexplicably - in supercharged Lotus sports cars, rather than reliable, good-old Vauxhall Astras.

Another pedantic gripe is with the film’s use of time sensitive deadlines. With only 9 minutes 47 seconds to do stuff, the audience becomes very aware of the passage of time. If you’re going to simulate real time in this manner, then do it properly, rather than have the protagonist repeatedly check their watch to assure the audience that there’s still loads of time left before he conks out again. The last sensation you want The Anomaly to leave you with is that there’s plenty of time left.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2014
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A former soldier is taken captive and awakens in the back of a van to learn he only has a few moments to figure out how he got there.
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