Starring Nicolas Cage, Jessica Biel and Julianne Moore. Directed by Lee Tamahori.
Running Time: 96 minutes
Rated: Rated M (moderate violence)

Philip K. Dick has become more and more popular over the last quarter of a century, especially since the release of Blade Runner which was based on one of his stories. In recent years, we have had quite a few film versions, especially Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. Most of the versions seem to be aiming less at being a classic than offering conventional entertainment with a dash of science-fiction and futuristic reflection. There was Imposter, with Gary Sinise and John Woo's Paycheck with Ben Affleck.

Next is in this category rather than a chapter in the science-fiction movie books. It is directed by New Zealand director, Lee Tamahori, whose excellent Once Were Warriors gave him an entrée to Hollywood where he went into slambang and smasheroo mode with The Edge, the James Bond film Die, Another Day, Along Came a Spider and xXx: The Next Level. This is what he does well and this is how he presents Next.

Nicolas Cage is a small-time Las Vegas magician and mentalist but we soon learn that he is a Philip Dick character because he is able to see two minutes ahead (no more) of what is going to happen to him. This works well on stage - and in the casinos. It also helps him avoid punches and bullets. However, with a nuclear bomb about to explode somewhere in America, his ability comes to the attention of the FBI. They want to recruit him to prevent the detonation. All would be well but he is involved with the woman of his dreams (or of his, by exception of the two minute rule, long term vision), Jessica Biel. The foreign agents are after him so they will use her to stop him working with the FBI.

This description sounds a bit slow in comparison with what is up there on the screen. Editing is fast paced. There are explosions and chases, confrontations and shootouts and plenty of effects and stunt-work. What is inventive is the sudden insertion of deadly situations followed by what really happens two minutes later. When the magician has to quickly search a warehouse at the end, he splits into many versions of himself (like the villainous Mr Smith of The Matrix).

Julianne Moore is the tough and almost relentless agent. This 2007 film seems to relish role reversal and feminist achievement. In the past, the Cage character might well have been a woman with visions and the Moore character a tough and macho male, so it is interesting to see the vice versa.

The written story is set in the future. The producers (rightly) saw that it might play more effectively on screen in the present.

Paramount Out August 30

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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