Traumatised and confused, shell-shocked ex-soldier Ryan (Noel Clarke) wakes up in the back of a van with a young kidnapped boy, no clue how either of them got there and no memory of the last few months. Releasing the child and escaping with him, the pair are chased through the streets of a near-future London by the sleek, enigmatic Harkin (Ian Somerhalder) before finding refuge in an overgrown cemetery.

Winning the boy’s trust and desperate to understand what has happened to them, Ryan questions him, discovers that a group of men in red masks with guns had earlier broken into the boy’s home, murdered his mother and kidnapped him. Ryan is horrified to discover a red mask in his pocket, blacks out again, waking to find weeks have passed and he and Harkin appear to be partners in a conspiracy with global implications. Someone is messing with Ryan’s mind…

Slicker than babysnot on a cagoule sleeve, The Anomaly is an ambitious, high-octane attempt to do Philip K. Dick on a low budget, director Noel Clarke casting himself as the luckless hero who’s only himself in short, unpredictable bursts of 9 minutes and 47 seconds, waking up in different situations and locations often weeks or months apart with no memory of his other life and forced to piece together and try to prevent the bad guys’ plot to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!! It’s a fun idea, Clarke structuring the film in real time to match Ryan’s episodes of clarity, keeping the audience as in the dark as his protagonist, allowing us to figure the plot out as he does, continually pulling the rug out from under both of us and the first third in particular grips.

Sure it’s convoluted and deeply derivative, Clarke liberally borrowing from the likes of Total Recall, Minority Report, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and Christopher Nolan’s Memento but if you’re going to steal, you may as well steal from the best and The Anomaly has a certain cheeky swagger to it that’s admirable though the debt owed to The Matrix by the film’s repetitive and increasingly uninvolving slo-mo fight scenes is obvious and soon becomes tiresome.

As the befuddled hero, Clarke is fine though perhaps there are a few too many shots of his ripped torso and chiseled buttocks than are strictly necessary but hey, what’s the point in being the director if you can’t show off your ass? Rather less well served is Alexis Knapp in the clichéd hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold role as the well-sculpted prostitute inexplicably compelled to aid and watch over the violent, clearly mentally ill, amnesiac hero, their romance by far the least believable aspect of Clarke’s paranoid mind-control thriller. But hey, what’s the point in being the director if you can’t show off your gorgeous co-star’s ass? As the rather obvious evil genius the wonderful Brian Cox is rather wasted, his contribution reduced to little more than a cameo while Niall Greig Fulton chews the scenery as an unhinged Russian scientist and one of the Hemsworths who isn’t Thor is obviously having fun as a prickish NSA agent. Perhaps the best performance however comes from Lost and The Vampire Diaries veteran Ian Somerhalder whose smooth, chilly Harkin is at once seductive and icily menacing, his suave, urbane villain becoming increasingly needy and possessive (for rather obvious reasons ultimately) over Clarke’s Ryan.

Neither as smart as it thinks it is nor as satisfying, Clarke’s thick ear, head-scratcher The Anomaly is a wildly ambitious, entertaining slice of paranoid sci-fi that’ll probably find it’s truest lease of life after the World Cup, on the home entertainment market where it’ll make decent Saturday night beer and pizza fodder.

 

VERDICT: [rating=3]

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