Review by Bradley Smith
Here we have another film set in the near future after climate change has taken a toll on the planet requiring humanity to adapt. Production of food stopped, there was a civil war, America built walls and created The Humanity Bureau; an agency whose sole purpose is to identify humans that don’t pull their own weight and ship them off to “New Eden” where they can “become more productive members of society”. It is a cautionary and familiar tale about our impact on the planet and giving government agencies too much power.
Nicholas Cage stars as Noah Kross, an ambitious caseworker for the titular organization. His job is to meet with people who have put in appeals with the bureau, having already been deemed unproductive members of society. His first case (shown in the film) sets up the tone of this future dystopia. First, while driving to the case, we get an introduction to “New America” and we see that the scarcity of food and water has not stopped the advancement of technology. As he arrives, we see that society still exists outside of “New America”, not quite as lawless as a western, but still seems that everyone has a gun and “city people” shouldn’t drink the water.
Unfortunately, the older gentleman that Kross meets has no case, but he also doesn’t want to be relocated claiming to know “the truth” about “New Eden” metaphorically waving the flag of the original United States of America while literally going for his gun. But, of course, Kross is prepared and their inevitable gunfight is very brief.
The filmmakers don’t actually reveal “the truth” this early, but my mind immediately went to various other shows about conformity and forced relocations; specifically an episode of the 2000 version of Twilight Zone or the Miracle Day season of Torchwood. The ultimate revelation in the Humanity Bureau was subsequently unsurprising. Even outside of fiction, looking at World War 2, would leave viewers not at all shocked by the twist.
A caseworker like Kross doesn’t yet know that “New Eden” is a lie, but once he learns (far earlier than the audience), he can’t accept the unjust fate of his next case, single mother Rachel Weller (Sarah Lind) and her son Lucas (Jacob Davies). This is where the action starts to pick up as Kross takes it upon himself to protect them from his superior, Adam Westinghouse (Hugh Dillon), and expose the Humanity Bureau.
The film has a plausible story that is intriguing and entertaining at times. The advanced tech seen throughout the film seems in line with the direction we’ve been heading and the subtle humor, either intentional or otherwise, hits the mark. But other times, the film gets a little outlandish and unbelievable; the biggest example would be when Kross is running across a rapid line of weapons fire from three people who are very near him, maybe 30-50 feet away, and guess how many times he gets hit… none. It’s meant to add some suspense, and this is far from the only movie to try this, but it rarely works.
Overall, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. The actors are great, making the characters believable (enough). Their vision of the near future is just disturbing enough to make a point or send a message. And there’s enough action to hold your attention.