This sci-fi action thriller stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician with the ability see two minutes into the future. Loosely based on the premise of Philip K. Dick’s short story The Golden Man, Next details Cris’ evasion and eventual co-operation with the FBI in order to avert a nuclear threat.
Next uses its intriguing premise to lure in its audience with a promise of a mind-bending sci-fi thriller. Seeing Cris use his ability to cheat at cards and then successfully evade casino security sets up what appears to be a truly interesting story, and when FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) steps in to ask for Cris’ help, he gets away once more.
From early on, there’s a mystery surrounding a vision Cris had of meeting a woman at 8.09 in a diner, something which far outlasted his usual two minute precognition limit. When he finally meets Liz (Jessica Biel), there’s some incredibly clichéd talk of destiny and Next appears to veer dangerously close to romantic thriller territory, with the movie’s central plot concerning a missing nuclear warhead and the FBI’s attempts to find it taking a back seat.
Therein lies the problem with Next: it tries to do far too much all at once. While Cage and Biel admittedly have good chemistry, their romance feels shoehorned into a story about averting nuclear disaster, and Biel’s character is both unimportant and narratively disposable.
With a sci-fi aspect as heavy as limited precognition, Next was under obligation to lay down a few rules concerning Cris’ unusual ability. It did; explaining within the first 10 minutes that Cris is limited to two minutes of precognition, and only of his own future, and with every glimpse at what’s going to happen he changes the vision.
The more you think about the logistics of the power he possesses, the more certain you become that the movie’s premise is nonsense. Anyone capable of seeing every possible outcome of every possible action over a two minute span would surely be a gibbering, incoherent mess, yet there Cris is, strutting around with Cage’s slightly goofy cocksure charm.
Issues with the movie’s sci-fi elements aside, it’s also guilty of several drastic tonal shifts, from action to romance to thriller and back again – although none of them overlap or blend in the slightest. One minute, Cris is loving Liz, the next, he’s dodging bullets and exploding cars, and the two scenes couldn’t feel any less related.
It was always going to be a difficult premise to pull off, and Next tried its hardest to make it work, but the constant shifting of its own rules made for uninteresting action and disappointing narrative development.
There’s also the matter of an incredibly lifeless performance from Julianne Moore, and one of the biggest cop-out endings imaginable that robs the audience of any possible sense of satisfaction or conclusion.
Summary: Next asks a lot of questions that it simply can’t – or won’t – answer. It tries hard to deliver action, suspense and romance, but ultimately, it delivers little more than disappointment.