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The Final Cut
Review written by: Alex Sandell

The Final Cut is the fourth in a series of dark and challenging films that Robin Williams has taken on (Death to Smoochy, Insomnia and One Hour Photo came before) in the last three or four years.  None have been overwhelming successes at the box-office, but each of them has made for compelling cinema, and has been better than another hundred predictable movies like Patch Adams or Bicentennial Man (Bicentennial Men?).

If you only watched the trailer, you'd think The Final Cut is similar in story and structure to Minority Report.  It isn't.  The movie unfolds at a very deliberate pace, similar to that of an Atom Egoyan film, and finds its heart and soul in the small moments, not in big FX or twist endings.  The sci-fi concept and the deliberately dated look, make for a deliciously conflicted cinematic vision.

Robin Williams plays Alan Hakman, a sought-after and extremely talented "cutter."  He works with ZoŽ Chips, which are implanted into an infant's brain at birth and record every moment of a person's existence.  When the individual with the implant passes away, the chip is removed and it is a cutter's job to go through and "edit" the person's life -- cutting out the good, putting things in chronological order and creating a "rememory." The rememory is then projected onto a movie screen (and later available on tombstones) in front of an audience consisting of the deceased's friends and family, in what is essentially the ultimate memorial service.  

Alan cuts these rememories on what is known as a "guillotine."  The guillotine -- an editing device with multiple flat-screen television sets, combined with a mahogany keyboard carved into a beautiful, old-fashioned desk -- looks like a product of nearly ever decade of the past 100 years.  Production designer James Chinlund (Requiem for a Dream) has outdone himself with this one.  The instant I saw it, I thought, "Academy Award!"

By assembling a first-rate cast and crew, screenwriter and director, Omar Naim merges sci-fi and film-noir in a combo that works nearly as well as chocolate and peanut butter, and is just as surprisingly sweet.  The film is visually pleasing and built on a wonderful concept.  Whenever somebody dies, family and friends nearly sanctify them with their selective memories.  What if they could take that one step further and watch the greatest moments of their loved one's life, while erasing the bad?  How would it affect a person to know that he is living with the implant (the ZoŽ Corporation says that 21 is usually a good age to tell someone that their entire life is being filmed)?

Naim's initial concept could give rise to hours of interesting ethical questions and questions of life and death.  Unfortunately, the director's screenplay doesn't live up to its promise, and clocks in at only 90 minutes.  This movie should have been at least 3 hours long.  At 90 minutes, it felt more like a trailer for a more intellectually stimulating and involving experience.  At the very least, if the film is going to hold itself back to a runtime usually limited to children's movies, cheesy comedies and slasher flicks, it should use every minute to explore the morality of the ZoŽ chip and cutting.  Instead, it second guesses itself and incorporates a useless thriller subplot that adds nothing to the film, but takes away a lot. 

In the subplot, an ex-cutter named Fletcher (James Caviezel), and a gang of tattooed Marilyn Manson look-alikes, question the integrity of Hakman's work.  They protest outside of the rememory services.  A bunch of other shit happens, but it isn't involving (and I can't talk about much of it, without giving away key plot points).

Stupid thriller elements aside, this movie is an intriguing character study dealing with how different individuals handle life in the face of death, and how far people will go to forgive their dearly departed.  It's an abbreviated Stanley Kubrick film, in the vein of Eyes Wide Shut; and, at least for a change, that's better than another movie with computer generated robots and lots of explosions. 

Robin Williams brings everything to this picture.  Even during the lulls of the more conventional moments, his performance keeps you watching.  He's only done better in the exceptional One Hour Photo (there are more than a few similarities between the two films).  Mira Sorvino also puts in a memorable performance as Delila, a librarian with conflicted emotions regarding the ZoŽ chip and with her fractured romance with Alan Hakman.  It's sad that the relationship between the two is never fully explored and ends on an unsatisfactory note. 

No matter how many times I bring up what's good about the film, I come back to the fact that the film wasn't good enough.  Although I enjoyed it from beginning to end, I thought that the end came far too soon.  Maybe it's to Omar Naim's credit that he is able, with his first film, to leave me wanting more.  Or, maybe it's to the editor's detriment that the film isn't at least twice as long.  I'm hoping for the latter, because I'd be the first in line to watch a three hour director's cut of this engrossing morality tale. 

Agree? Disagree? Have questions?  Comments?  Email this critic at


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