If you like impressive-looking sci-fi with lots of running around, you might like this. On the other hand, if you like thoughtful, intelligent science fiction, you can safely give this one a pass. With a talented cast, good budget, and a terrific premise by Phil Dick (who also inspired the brilliant Blade Runner and Total Recall), this should have been a fine movie. I don't know whether to blame the director, the writer (adapter), or both. (Each has done things I've liked in the past.) There are lots of troublesome inconsistencies, but I want to keep spoilers to a minimum. I can suspend disbelief and I think I have a fair tolerance for implausible heroics and holes in plots. But in science fiction or in fantasy, realism by default must be grounded in the characters, and I couldn't make myself believe the two leads—one a supposedly brainy weapons scientist, the other a top intelligence official—could possibly be so much stupider than the viewing audience. Neither seems capable of self-reflection or insight into the motives of anyone else. An interrogation scene near the beginning of the movie is a brain-numbing disaster. Vincent D'Onofrio's bullet-headed intelligence officer is portrayed as impervious to critical thought and mindlessly cruel. If he believes the circumstances are as he says slightly later in the film, it's senseless for him to act and talk as he does during the interrogation. (Also, didn't anyone ever teach him about the concept of "misinformation"?) Meanwhile, Gary Sinise's rocket scientist, instead of trying to persuade onlookers by asking obvious logical questions, adopts an initial strategy for escape makes no sense whatsoever (and has no obvious point). Mekhi Phifer, good as always, plays the only role that seems remotely plausible. The film director does achieve the small miracle of making a character played by Madeleine Stowe uninteresting, but at least she is given the chance to ask, halfway through the film, the question every character should have been asking from the beginning: "How can you be sure?" That is the central theme of Dick's message, although it's message few of the characters in this film could have understood.
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