Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Lind, and Jakob Davies
Director: Rob W. King
95 minutes (15) 2017
101 Films Blu-ray region B
Review by Peter Schilling
Dystopia... What is it good for? In the movies, it’s usually effective as a satirical narrative framework or a vehicle for contemporary political commentary. In our own late-capitalist milieu of Trump’s America and impending cultural collapse, due to government corruption and mismanagement of natural resources and environmental abuse, dystopian narratives are so commonplace as end-of-the-world conflicts that even casual cinema viewers might suspect all hope for our species, trapped in the fragile balance of economic belief systems and wholly practical concerns is lost. Extinction events loom extra-large, on every shining dream screen, from the superheroic battles of Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015), to various ongoing sci-fi TV dramas like The 100 and The Handmaid’s Tale.
While other scenarios challenge our civilisation with sudden catastrophe, the remnants of humanity that collapse into tribalism, or a theological patriarchy, The Humanity Bureau explores how austerity breeds fascistic exclusivity with executions hidden behind a wall of secrecy, and stars Nicolas Cage as government agent Noah Kross. His character arc leads him from being a dutiful employee, due for a promotion, to rogue action hero, attempting to contact and join exiled rebels against homicidal forces of the grimly totalitarian regime that rules all that’s left of a near-future America. Noah travels on a mission to rehab, and relocate, isolated individuals or families to a rumoured utopian community, but this post-apocalypse world’s ‘New Eden’ is anything but welcoming. When he meets single-mother, Rachel (Sarah Lind, WolfCop), and her son (Jakob Davies, The Tall Man), this improbable conspiracy unravels and Noah’s unexpected questioning of Humanity Bureau propaganda results in a series of life-changing decisions with ultimately tragic consequences.
Chief bad guy Adam (Hugh Dillon) helps to make this stylishly photographed road movie, filmed on Canadian locations, a kind of Logan’s Run for the current zeitgeist for economic and environmental disaster movies. Although The Humanity Bureau does not have one of Nic Cage’s best performances because he fails to attain the manic intensity that’s become his trademark ever since Vampire’s Kiss (1988), and Wild At Heart (1990). Cage’s unique brand of crazy behaviour, as seen more recently in Drive Angry (2011), and his couple of Ghost Rider superhero movies, might well be his defining characteristic as a major star in Hollywood, but he is capable of subtler and nuanced roles, and this SF movie features the actor’s ability to portray the greater depths of an ordinary man seeking redemption - and yes, rediscovering his own humanity, with immense sincerity.