(out of 5)
In 2045, humanity has given up all hope of finding common ground, making it easy for people to escape the perpetual battle of daily life by spending most of their time inside a virtual reality video game called Oasis. The game was created by a now deceased genius (Mark Rylance, once again speaking like his mother put him in the washing machine as a child), whose death came with the announcement that he has planted an easter egg deep inside his magnificent creation which will grant the winner controlling stock in his company. At the point that this exciting adventure begins, there have been five fruitless years of millions of people trying to get the three keys that provide clues to the final answer. Tye Sheridan is excellent as a young man who is determined to be the winning hero and get himself out of a rough home life, teaming up with the friends he has made in Oasis while outrunning the evil corporate shill (Ben Mendelsohn, once again speaking like he was kidnapped by pirates as a child) who is willing to do whatever it takes to win the game and merge Oasis with his own rival tech company. The stakes get higher and higher as the activity within the game gets louder and more explosive, while outside in the real world the players are much more vulnerable and the harm that can be done to them is much more permanent. Ridiculously fun and imaginative, this film has some of the most dazzling effects you’ve ever seen, including the beautiful neon brightness of the video game’s world and some impressively daring sequences that take place within it, the most wonderful being a trip into Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Director Steven Spielberg shows himself to be both a great upholder of tradition and hopelessly out of date at the same time; he is obsessed with storytelling despite all the fireworks, which feels rare in the genre at this point, but the plot sharpens its focus on a standard hero and a villain straight out of central casting, concluding with a satisfying ending, free of cynicism, in which being good and working hard always pay off. The end result feels unfairly lightweight, the fire that lit up movies like Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T. is gone, while openly referencing Kubrick only makes one wonder about the kind of dark explorations of the human mind that this could have ventured into had he still been alive to direct it in Spielberg’s place. It is a good time, though, and it should be seen.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski
Music by Alan Silvestri
Production Design by Adam Stockhausen
Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone