In an era dominated by familiar IP, this summer’s Reminiscence promises to be a breath of fresh air. Or a hyperventilating gasp, based on the tense first trailer.
Marking the directorial debut of Westworld creator Lisa Joy, Reminiscence stars Hugh Jackman as private investigator Nick Bannister, who solves his clients’ mysteries by clearing their brain fog. In his near-future world, military-approved technology allows the curious to plug in and reenter their faded memories with absolute clarity. But after assisting his client Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) in finding her keys (yes, really), Nick’s job takes a romantic turn — and then a disastrous one, when she goes missing. Thandiwe Newton co-stars as Nick’s partner, while Daniel Wu pops up in a murkier role.
“We’re going on a journey through memory,” Jackman says in the trailer, in a meditative noir voice. “All you have to do is follow my voice.”
In a preview event for the trailer, Joy explained that the idea for the film came to her after the convergence of two experiences: the birth of her first child, and the hope of savoring those early sense memories forever; and a trip to Slaithwaite, England, after her father’s death, in which she packed up all of his belongings, and realized he had a photo of a woman he met during a war, whom he never met again, but also never forgot.
“Something about her made such an impression that it made him name his house after her, and he kept the photo,” Joy said. With this film, for all this action-thriller grandeur, Joy said she hoped to explore the moments that pass by, that change us, and the idea of “how nice it would be to go back to those memories fully, and feel the way you felt when you experienced them.”
As with Westworld, there’s also plenty of catnip for fans of speculative science fiction. Nick’s memory-jumping machine was inspired by a fact Joy picked up way back in science class, when she learned that touching certain neurons during brain surgery would help patients relive memories. And the film takes place in a futuristic Miami that has built walls to keep out the rising tides of climate change — an infrastructure move that’s literally being debated right now.
“When the waters began to rise, and war broke out, nostalgia became a way of life,” Jackman says in the trailer. “There wasn’t a lot to look forward to. So people began looking back. Nothing is more addictive than the past.”
Reminiscence hits theaters and HBO Max on Sept. 3.