This Matrix-type thriller can’t decide what’s real or fake.
“Bliss” is the latest Sci-Fi drama to channel on “The Matrix,” and I recall my dislikes for “Serenity,” which turned out to be a gloomy and poorly acted rip-off of that. This one is almost as pointless and aimless as that turkey, and not even its leads-Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek-could shake things up. You get some impressive visual ideas, but you still are so bored and unamused by the story, that you end up having no idea what it’s about and how any of this is possible?
It was written and directed Mike Cahill, who also made the interesting Indie “Another Year” and the underdeveloped “I, Origins.” It seems to me that this filmmaker needs to figure out what he really wants to accomplish, because his work has lately been depressing.
Wilson plays a Tech Support drawer named Greg Whittle, who just got divorced, lost his job, and accidentally knocks out his boss (Steve Zissis). He comes to a bar and finds a homeless woman named Isabel Clemens (Hayek), who tells him he’s in the Matrix. Just kidding, but his world isn’t real, and neither are most of the people around them. She arranges for the guy he injured to fall out of the building, making it look like suicide. How is this possible? Because this guy isn’t real. How can they make skaters trip or get injured in the roller rink? Again, nobody there is real. And how can he crush a bad guy’s car? Because they take yellow crystals. Yes, there has to be a catch to all this.
To escape this world, they have to take a special kind of blue crystal through the nostrils. And when they do exit, we get to see a cool display featuring a vat full of connected brains, hologram people, and even better-an invention Greg invented. It’s called a Thought Visualizer, which shows you what you’re thinking or you’re saying. It sketches look like if “Schoolhouse Rock” was taken a quantum leap forward. Even Bill Nye’s supporting role is a big fan of it.
Meanwhile, his daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper) from that virtual world wants him to come to her high school graduation ceremony, and begins looking for him. She finds him and forgives him for missing her graduation. He promises to be there, but she says it happened 2 weeks ago. And when he exits this world, she goes around searching for him again.
And when virtual reality merges with reality, here comes the confusion. Wilson and Hayek are both amazing actors, but their performances are so lackluster, you barely even seem to care what their characters’ ambitions are. The visuals are amazing, but neither the script nor characters support them. It’s all ideas and less concept, and like “Serenity,” “Bliss” handles the genre in a sad and dreary manner. In order for a movie to use virtual reality against reality, you must seize the opportunity to expand their horizons, and craft a story that movie-goers can delve deep into. This movie misses that mark.
To make this review seem all fun, I’ll let you choose between the Red Pill and Blue Pill. Take the Red Pill, and see if you can figure out what this movie wants to achieve. Or take the Blue Pill, and wait for the new “Matrix” movie to come out. But I think, at this point, you’ll follow your heart.
Premieres on Amazon Prime This Friday