Watched: 25 January

I really enjoyed the first hour of this sci-fi satire – the high-concept premise is fun, there are some barbed attacks that suggest a certain blandness and inherent racism and discrimination at the heart of the American Dream, and the execution up to a point is solid enough – but the second half really starts to meander and you get the sense that Alexander Payne lost control – though as this happens the film does admittedly begin to move into interesting, unexpected territory, and there’s something to be said for that. It’s a shame that certain characters get sidelined while this happens, but Matt Damon’s everyman becomes a resssuring presence, Hong Chau steers the film through more difficult waters, and both Udo Kier and Christoph Waltz are a hoot. I think that somewhere in this unusual screenplay there’s a work that could have been the equal of something like The Truman Show or Synecdoche, New York, but sadly it falls short – where would Charlie Kaufman have taken the story after the initial set-up, for example? By the time we hit the miniature retreat in Norway’s Fjordland I felt tired and ready to bail, but I do wonder whether this film will be reappraised in years to come – there have been knee jerk reactions to it, presumably because it’s unconventional and takes some unexpected turns, but I’d certainly like to see it again. (***)