The Anomaly (2014)

anomaly12016.85: The Anomaly (Film Four HD)

Noel Clarke’s The Anomaly is an ambitious but sadly deeply flawed and very uneven sci-fi thriller. It takes a clever central conceit -Noel Clarke’s  traumatised hero Ryan has his body taken over by a mad scientist, and only fleetingly regains consciousness after various periods of time to find himself in odd situations and in strange places. Each time he only has ten minutes to discover what is immediately going on and, ultimately, what the mad scientist is up to, before the scientist regains control.

The idea is intriguing but the execution is labored and stretches the patience of the viewer. I’ve summed up the central plot above, but bear in mind that for over an hour we don’t even know there is a mad scientist taking over Ryan’s body- its all a mystery, and for much of the time the audience is, like Ryan, flailing around at a loss as to just what is actually going on. Intellectually that might seem a good idea, and indeed might make an interesting short story, but applying it to a film is in practice a bad move. Its really more infuriating than interesting. For much of the time I thought it was some kind of time-travel/time-loop story, so was barking up the wrong tree completely.

So the film isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. When the main protagonist has no grounding, no central position or arc, its difficult to have any empathy for him or his predicament. It also doesn’t help that the film is also rather schizophrenic regarding what genre it is. Sometimes it feels like a mystery, sometimes a noir-thriller, and then it occasionally slips into some kind of poor-man’s  Matrix;  it descends into slow-mo, gratuitous violence, a boring Kung-Fu action flick in fight sequences that seem to be going on forever. It feels like Clarke is under the impression that more is better, that excess is king. Maybe that’s the wrong lesson to learn from the Hollywood big boys when you are shooting a low-budget genre flick.

anomaly2Technically it remains impressive, with some great visual effects that belie the films very low budget, and the action sequences are handled very well considering the meagre resources at hand. In that sense, as a sort of low-budget proof of concept, the film likely will do Clarke no harm in his rise towards directing a major genre film someday. But its disjointed, sprawling mess of a narrative is extremely worrying and betrays a contradictory lack of control. If not Clarke, then someone, somewhere involved in this film should have slowed things down and applied some serious focus to the story. I do think had the central conceit of the mad scientist controlling his body been revealed at the start, and then Ryan’s plot-line been a straight attempt to thwart the scientists actions, each of his ten minute spells simply undermining the scientists actions, then it may have been a much better film.

3 thoughts on “The Anomaly (2014)

  1. I was going to record this but forgot, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

    I think Clarke is very admiral in his desire to try to create some kind of UK film industry that can hold its own against the Hollywood product, but I get the impression the work he actually produces does much to aid that dream (not that I’ve actually got round to watching any of it personally, to be fair).

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