Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson
Julianne Moore as Callie Ferris
Jessica Biel as Liz
Thomas Kretschmann as Mr. Smith
Tory Kittles as Cavanaugh
José Zúñiga as Security Chief Roybal
Jim Beaver as Wisdom
Jason Butler Harner as Jeff Baines
Michael Trucco as Kendal
Enzo Cilenti as Mr. Jones
Laetitia Danielle as Miss Brown
Nicolas Pajon as Mr. Green
Sergej Trifunovic as Mr. White
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Regardless of its silly retro action flick plot, “Next” wins points for its cool premise, its impressive action sequences and for ending before it wears out its welcome.
Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) has the power to see two minutes into his own future, something that he’s used to create a Vegas alter ego for himself, magician Frank Cadillac. When FBI Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) realizes what Cris is capable of doing, she calls upon him to help them stop terrorists from setting off a nuclear device in L.A., but Cris is too concerned with saving his new girlfriend Liz (Jessica Biel) from the fate he’s foreseen for her.
One might pity all of the poor Philip K. Dick fans who have seen the work by their favorite sci-fi author be cannibalized by Hollywood, and yet, one can’t help but be impressed by how Dick’s ideas, which were always ahead of his time, have been integrated into fairly entertaining action flicks over the years. The involvement of Gary Goldman, who wrote “Total Recall” and an early version of “Minority Report,” with “Next”, a loose adaptation of Dick’s 1954 short story “The Golden Man,” is somewhat of a giveaway, but once again, these ideas are put into the capable hands of an action director, in this case “Die Another Day” director Lee Tamahori, to try to get the high concept idea across in the most entertaining way possible.
Of course, the jumping off point for this movie would have to be last year’s Dick-flick wannabe “Déjà Vu,” but the premise here is thankfully far less complex and as a whole, far less long-winded, letting us see Cris’s powers at work during the first ten minutes when he leads the police on an amazing car chase where we watching something happen and then see how Cris changes the outcome by timing things differently or making a different decision. It doesn’t take long for the silliest of pre-9/11 terrorist plots to be introduced, complete with unrealistic FBI agents and German bad guys fresh from John McLane’s last romp.
Cris Johnson is actually one of Cage’s better action characters, more like Benjamin Gates of “National Treasure” in terms of charm and personality, because he always knows what to say and do. This comes across the best as he tries to win over the beautiful woman he’s seen in visions with whom he’s become obsessed since he can see further into her future than his own. When that woman, Jessica Biel’s Liz, walks into the diner where Cris has dreamt of meeting her, he’s forced to come up with the perfect opening, examining all the possible reactions and outcomes of making the wrong first move. This is one of the more entertaining non-action scenes of the movie but it leads to a lull in which the movie threatens to grind the halt as it delves into their romance and relationship. Just as this gets tiring, it kicks back into gear with an impressive action piece and than doesn’t let up after that until the end.
Cage effortlessly carries this movie, but Julianne Moore isn’t particularly convincing, as she plays her FBI agent tougher and more high-strung than her Clarice Staring; needless to say, it’s not her best role. Jessica Biel is far better cast as Cage’s love interest, playing well off of Cage in their scenes together, plus there’s something amusing about seeing Biel strapped with explosives ready to be detonated. (An early appearance by Peter Falk as Cris’ mentor is enjoyable but the character is quickly forgotten never to return.)
As things build to what could be the end of Los Angeles, Cris leads the FBI agents through a warehouse looking for the bad guys while warning them of potential danger. In this sequence, Tamahori uses even more clever special effects to show off Cris’ powers, at one point him covering an entire floor with multiple versions of himself to show him going through every single possible variable.
Most of all, “Next” gets points for being just the right length to work. Where anyone else would have dragged this story on for far too long, trying to make it more complicated than it need be, this one gets to the point, throws one last twist at the viewerit will either be accepted or grumbled aboutand then it ends on a pleasant high note. In fact, this may be one of the first Dick adaptations since “Blade Runner” that might warrant some form of sequel, although who knows what they’d be able to call it?
The Bottom Line:
Maybe going into “Next” with lowered expectations makes it easier to enjoy it for the summer popcorn flick it should have been, but it’s certainly the kind of movie that Nicolas Cage fans and those who’ve enjoyed previous Philip K. Dick inspired action flicks will appreciate.