A Rabbit Hole Worth Going Down
Chris Kavan - wrote on 01/03/19
Netflix is no stranger to taking chances on something different. Though their track record is spotty at best on original films, Black Mirror (a twisted, technological Twilight Zone) has been a favorite of mine. Thus when it was announced there was a Black Mirror film, with an interactive twist, I was hooked. Thought this film is not perfect, it is a unique experience and one that anyone with access to Netflix should check out for as it is unlike anything else out there.
The film follows young Stefan (played by Dunkirk star Fionn Whitehead) a video game programming in the 1980s whose dream is to adapt the choose-your-own adventure novel Bandersnatch into an adventure video game. He gets an interview with Tuckersoft (an amalgamation of real-life companies Hudsonsoft and Imagine Software) and meets his idol Colin Ritman (Will Poulter) and the ecstatic CEO Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry). It turns out the novel was written by Jerome F. Davies - an author who killed his wife shortly after finishing the novel after bouts of increasing paranoia about being in control of his own life. Thus Stefan's journey begins to mirror that of Davies while we, the audience, control the outcome via a series of choices.
These choices begin innocuously - what cereal to eat, what song to listen to - but the further you get, the more interesting the choices become - and the more Stefan realizes he isn't truly in control. At one point you can even tell Stefan he is being controlled by Netflix (and if you follow thread through, you get the excellent Kung Fu Fighting end between Stefan, his psychologist - played by Alice Lowe and his father, played by Craig Parkinson). There are plenty of other paths to follow - including one that involves his late mother and the guilt he feels about the way she died, following Colin on a drug-fueled journey, going mad, murder, prison and much, much more - often you will go back to previous decisions and explore new options before finally arrived at a true "end". While I didn't experience every end, I think I spend about two-and-half hours on the various decisions and got quite a few of the "endings".
But while the novelty is there, Bandersnatch lives up the Black Mirror name - giving us a technological terror that drips with nostalgia and terror - because who among us hasn't at one point in time felt that we weren't fully in control of our own lives? Plus it deftly combines the feeling of a video game with the movie - the interactive nature just blurs that line even more. There are also plenty of nice Easter Eggs there for the Black Mirror fans.
According to director David Slade, the process to put this together was much more difficult than he could have imagined and, at least for him, he's not going to try another. It was a three-year effort but the results speak for themselves. Yes, it can get a bit repetitive, but for those wanting a truly unique movie experience, you won't find anything else out there quite like this.