Las Vegas showroom magician Cris Johnson has a secret which torments him: he can see a few minutes into the future. Sick of the examinations he underwent as a child and the interest of the government and medical establishment in his power, he lies low under an assumed name in Vegas, performing cheap tricks and living off small-time gambling "winnings." But when a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles, government agent Callie Ferris must use all her wiles to capture Cris and convince him to help her stop the cataclysm.
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
. Starring: Nicolas Cage
, Julianne Moore
, Jessica Biel
, Thomas Kretschmann
, Tory Kittles
, José Zúñiga
, Jim Beaver
, Jason Butler Harner
, Michael Trucco
, Enzo Cilenti
, Laetitia Danielle
, Nicolas Pajon
, Sergej Trifunovic
. Music by: Mark Isham
In this Lee Tamahori sci fi-thriller, the role of (anti-ish) hero Cris Johnson (aka "Frank Cadillac") allows Nicolas Cage to achieve what he often strives to - but quite often fails to - in movies, i.e. attract the sympathy and understanding of the filmgoing audience. On the face of it, things don't look too promising, given that Johnson inhabits the familiar Cage habitat of Las Vegas, where he performs a mixture of future-predicting and simple magic tricks to far less than packed houses. He's not averse to a bit of sleazy stuff (this is Vegas after all), and his life is not going anywhere much, though he does have some kind of support-system at home thanks to a character of unknown category called "Irv", who appears in a very brief scene but nevertheless makes a remarkably big mark thanks to being portrayed by Peter (Columbo) Falk, whom it proves surprisingly - if quite tangibly - pleasant to come across again, in this sparse but satisfying cameo role. In fact, this sets a kind of a trend for the film, for Cage is at his best here, just as is that not-always-compelling actress here doing very good things, Julianne Moore. She is an FBI agent interested in Johnson because her observations of him for some time convince her that he has genuine abilities to see the future deliberately played down to allow him to go on leading an anonymous life. This is indeed the case, and it is clear from the outset that, while the ability earns Johnson a modest-ish living, and allows him to avoid certain problems, it also represents a major burden in itself that he doesn't especially want, and would definitely prefer not to put at the disposal of Uncle Sam.
As it turns out, Johnson (mostly) only sees 2 minutes into the future, and rather just his own future. Having suspended disbelief this far, one might well consider that such a "gift" would most likely prove entirely impossible to adjust to or compensate for, even if one could. Yet clearly Johnson has got used to it, even if it is also a tiresome weight on his shoulders.
So far it's all a bit downbeat and small-time, but what adds a great deal in this story (originally from no less a writer than Philip Dick) is that Johnson has one event from the further future he's also been able to see - a meeting with the woman of his dreams which he knows the hour and place of, but not the day. Given that, when this meeting does indeed materialise, it is with an astoundingly, mesmerisingly good-looking Jessica Biel in the role of Liz Cooper (who also turns out to be a warm and kind person), we can readily sympathise with the character who believes this love might help lift him out of his burdensome existence.
This romance, and the warm feelings it inspires, give a very great deal to the movie, not least also a bit of comedy, as Johnsons's "2-minute" thing allows him to go through a multitude of different first-line chat-up scenarios, which invariably fail to work with the lovely newcomer.
The FBI have a real task for Johnson to perform, and at first they think (wrongly) that coercion might be as effective as cooperation. However Moore's Agent Ferris soon realises the error of this, especially when she grasps Johnson's romantic motivations for doing the right thing. Given (notwithstanding) their typical features as actors - Moore and Cage offer a surprisingly effective and appealing on-film partnership. There are several pretty major plot twists and one very major one, and a few really spectacular moments, especially at the Grand Canyon, several less well-known facets of which we also get to see and appreciate in the course of what looks like (and can be enjoyed as) a mini "road-movie" segment.
There are also some nice touches when Johnson does indeed live up to Ferris's expectations and uses his gifts to save life repeatedly, while ensuring appropriate comeuppances for the bad-guys (of which there seem at times to be hordes).
Somehow it all gels well enough, and all the more so given that a great deal is left unshown and unsaid. One is absolutely not used to such economy in films, especially films of this genre, and here it pays dividends. It remains surprisingly fresh throughout, and in many ways we are left with the idea that (despite the critical and grand-scale nature of the threat that Johnson is roped in by the FBI to avert), this film is also very much about the overriding need in all of us to find the right person to love - a prize for which we are naturally prepared to do a very great deal, and put up with a very great deal. In the end, one cannot fail to empathise with the joy - but also the burden and fragility and chanciness - of being given the chance to envision one's perfect mate with which to pass through life.
Review by James
from the Internet Movie Database.