There’s dark, and then there’s dark. I wouldn’t advise watching this one during the daytime unless you’ve got a room with no windows. Now, there have been plenty of dark movies in the last decades, and some of them are quite annoying, becoming murky when there is no real excuse for it. But this one has an excellent excuse: There is no sun. Aliens have taken a group of humans and put them into a created environment where they control reality, time and space. Every time the clock strikes 12, time stops (there is no longer any AM or PM). Everyone sleeps, and the aliens rearrange not only the furniture—buildings, subways, streets, right down to the silverware on the table—but also memories. (Why? Why does a behavioral scientist alter a rat maze? To learn something about rats.) I recall it was pretty mind-blowing seeing all this computer morphing in 1998, and wondered how it would hold up all this time later. Answer: It still looks damn good.
This is the same basic idea in The Matrix (but a year earlier) and Inception, and I like this one better than either of those. It looks terrific, so here’s a shout-out to George Liddle, Patrick Tatopoulos, and Michelle McGahey, who designed it all. Rooms are long and narrow, and the whole world is shabby, in addition to being dark. It’s a mix of several different eras, with William Hurt as a cop right out of the 1940s, always wearing a fedora, and the cars in the street looking somehow antique. Many of the shots reminded me of Edward Hopper paintings in their bleak spareness. It’s also one of those rare SF movies that pretty much hangs together, plotwise, never descending into some stupid sidetrack. It has earned the respect of many mainstream SF writers over the years, unlike The Matrix. Recommended.