People seem to hate this movie. I do not hate it. I am interested by the bad reviews. People are upset because they are manipulated but honestly I like being manipulated when it is this sort. Yes the film is built around the gimmick of seeing how cryptic the film can be throughout the film without giving it away. However Ebert ended his review by saying something to the effect of “Some people like to be emotionally manipulated. I do, when it’s done well.” I subscribe to this too at least with fiction films, not with documentaries. I cannot deny the fact that I was completely intrigued throughout the film even though I had pretty much figured out the basics by about an hour into it. It still made the reveal no less impactful to me. I do not know how well the film worked. Again it is built around a gimmick, not being able to really function as a film without it. The direction feels decent but nothing noteworthy; it lacked much of a distinct voice for a film that could have used one. The song choices that are in the film feel very out of place like a misguided attempt to make the film more mainstream than it is.
However there were some good things about it. For one Will Smith gives his best performance. He was incredible. He looks exactly the same but I was watching a different person. That was not Will Smith; he completely slips into his character and does not try to make the Ben more accessible. He plays each scene as his character would, not thinking about making the audience understand him. He is incredible to watch perform in this and I am still thinking about his performance. Rosario Dawson, also one of my favorite actresses, gives her best performance here as well. There scenes together make this movie completely worth watching in my opinion. Their chemistry and story is extremely moving and depressing. This is a huge part of the film and it works.
While the film has serious issues and it ultimately a failed attempt at an Oscar film, being nearly universally panned, I cannot stop thinking about the movie and was ultimately moved by the performances and the story even if it is a gimmick and a MAJOR downer. The fact is Will Smith is incredible in this. Yes it is very flawed but it stuck with me despite all of that by the performances and yes by the story. I am deciding to recognize the gimmick of it but to still like the film despite of all that.