Director: John Woo
I’ll start off with the admission that Paycheck is not strictly speaking a dystopian film. It’s based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, so it is often noted alongside films like Bladerunner and Minority Report, but it is really at best a story of an averted dystopia.
Ben Affleck plays an engineer who, for a hefty fee, can reverse engineer any technology (generally for an unscrupulous competitor), and then have his memory erased, to cover all tracks. He takes on a big contract that will last 2-3 years (well above his normal timelines) for a massive payoff. When he next awakens, sans memory, he discovers that he has waived his $90 million fee, the personal effects returned to him are not what he originally turned over, and he’s also wanted for treason and murder.
The personal effects are actually a puzzle which he himself crafted before having his memory wiped, in order to lead his now memory-less self back to the source of the trouble, the technology which he was working on. Affleck of course manages to solve his own riddles and eventually save the world from a machine which predicts the future, but really causes the future events to happen by acting as the trigger for those very events. Get it?
As far as the dystopian side of this is concerned, there’s certainly a high level of corporate culpability, and a cyberpunk level of technological fetishism. A truly dystopian future is glimpsed, but averted. In the end, I have difficulty actually calling this a dystopian film, as the memory wiping technology is very narrowly applied, and the whole future visions angle is resolved. Watch it if you will, but it’s more of a sci-fi-spy thriller than a dystopian film noir.
Review Date: 2010-07-21
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338337/