Nicholas Cage is somewhat of a Hollywood enigma. Critics and audiences alike either respond positively to his work or they tend to hate it. There seems to be little room in between. I happen to be a Cage fan. I believe he is highly under rated as an actor, but there aren’t as many people in my camp is there are on the other side.
Cage’s latest film – – “Next” – – may just manage to earn him a little more respect. It’s a good film with one of the most inventive endings I’ve seen in quite a while.
In the film, Cage plays a two-bit Vegas magician named Cris Johnson. His act is less than dazzling, which forces most to believe he is nothing but a fake. But is he a fake or is he just hiding in plain sight?
In truth, Johnson has a secret; one that he wishes he could discard. Unfortunately, he cannot. The secret is that he can see about two minutes into the future; not just any future, however. He can only see the future as it pertains directly to him.
Since his magic act doesn’t make much money for him, he also does a bit of small-time gambling. Although he attempts to fly under the radar by keeping his bets low and moving from casino to casino, he manages to catch the attention of one of the casino’s security managers. Just as he attempts to make his getaway, however, an event occurs that ultimately changes everything.
Government agent, Callie Ferris (played by the beautiful Julianne Moore) has somehow caught onto Johnson’s abilities and she intends to use them to help her find a stolen nuclear bomb that a terrorist group claims will detonate somewhere around Los Angeles. She doesn’t understand that Johnson’s abilities are limited to “his” immediate future and, for reasons left unexplained, the psychic doesn’t matter to fill her in.
A sudden change in Johnson’s abilities, encourage him to side step the agent. He feels it important that he find a young woman that he has begun seeing in his visions. All he knows about her is that the two of them will meet in a nearby diner.
Johnson knows there is an unusual aspect to this vision because he saw it days before it was slated to happen, rather than within the two minute time span with which he is familiar. Johnson assumes that this has some kind of significance to him and he plants himself in the diner day after day until he finally meets the woman of his dreams (played by the ethereal Jessica Biel) – – both figuratively and literally.
Once he meets his dream girl, Johnson cons her into giving him a ride to Arizona. But, as they begin their trip, it becomes clear that they are being followed; not only by the government, but also by the terrorists.
The screenplay, written by Gary Goldman and Jonathan Hensleigh, is really quite excellent. It is tightly written with a great mixture of action, adventure, and love. The characters are well defined and perfectly developed to compliment the actors that portray them.
Director, Lee Tamahori, delivers a thrill-ride of a movie that showcases the talents of the film’s actors beautifully. They, in turn, do a remarkable job in bringing the characters to life.
Cage manages to take a somewhat shady character and make the audience cheer for him in the end. Although essentially hesitant to help find the nuke, because he is afraid that the government just wants another guinea pig, he comes through in the end. His acting runs the gamut from a sad, lonely character to that of a tender lover and finally that of realistic, but totaly human, hero.
I have to say that Moore’s character was a bit too hard edged for me. Still, she played the part well and was a little too convincing as a good “bad” guy.
Biel’s presence on screen was, as usual, mesmerizing. There is something about this actress that calls out to the audience to watch her every move. I can’t put my finger on it, but it is a wonderful trait that should take this starlet straight to the top.
The special effects are quite good. There is one stunt involving a water tower, a wagon, and some timber that is – – to say the least – – edge of your seat entertainment.
While this movie probably won’t go down history as one of the best of all time, it is still an excellent film that people will likely enjoy for many years to come. And as I said earlier, it has one dilly of an ending.
I definitely have to give this movie three and three-quarters out of five stars. I loved it and intend to add it to my DVD collection when it becomes available.