When Omar Naim decided to write his first (and, to date, only) screenplay, he probably sat down and revisited a handful of his favorite films including Blade Runner, Gattaca, Minority Report, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I-Robot. In the process, Naim most likely grabbed a pen and pad, took detailed notes, and began brainstorming.
Certainly, Naim wanted to explore a futuristic, ethical dilemma — with a Phillip K. Dick sci-fi feel. At the same time, he obviously desired to incorporate the functionality of retaining memories, the process of becoming the ultimate voyeur (in seeing the world through another pair of eyes), and the ability to access one’s own mind. All the while, Naim strove to appear smart and look as if his work belonged in the same class as that of his muses.
Although Naim shot for the stars in equaling his inspirations, his work only attains mediocrity. Against the aforementioned, The Final Cut’s premise is striking — yet the film is lacking. All in all, The Final Cut is worth the time in analysis, but not worth the money.
In a near-future world, humans can opt to have a two-millimeter wide, electronic memory chip – called a Zoë implant – implanted into their unborn child’s brain. This memory chip captures every sight and sound of human life (including “childhood, sleep, puberty, eating, awkward phase, romantic life, temptation, personal hygiene, religion, tragedy, wedding, masturbation, team athletics, growth spurt, university, violence, school, courtship, career,” etc.) The purpose of the implant is to grant the next generation of loved ones the ability to share in their life’s highlights. Of course, considering this technology presents a moral quandary, an effort to uproot the process accompanies the controversy.
Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) is a cutter, a person who edits Zoë implant footage and then composes it into a video eulogy/“rememory” to honor the deceased. Known for his superb work, Alan is a devoted professional who views his occupation as an honest art. Nonetheless, when an important figure dies and Alan is requested to do the cutting, Alan’s ethics are tried. Both Alan’s love interest Delila (Mira Sorvino) and an ex-cutter named Fletcher (Jim Caviezel) become involved and complicate matters. Furthermore, Alan is continually haunted by a childhood memory that ultimately leads to a life-altering discovery.
Toward the beginning of the film, “The Cutter’s Code” is invoked. Its essence is this: “I. A cutter cannot sell or give away Zoë footage; II. A cutter cannot have a Zoë implant; and, III. A cutter cannot mix Zoë footage from different lives for a rememory.” Keeping in mind that rules are meant to be broken, one can easily anticipate The Final Cut’s final acts based on these three no-no’s. What’s more, The Final Cut even signals before twisting and turning — deflating the suspense like a sputtering balloon.
To add insult to injury, all the talk on memories not always being precise representations of the way things originally occurred further spoils the direction in which The Final Cut is headed. While it is intriguing to note that differentiation from what the eye sees and the minds sees is difficult, riding the 'self-manipulation of how you brain remembers' boat for too long results in sinking the ship. We understand details can be distorted.
On the upside, the plot thread of Alan recalling an incident that occurred during his childhood works out well. This keeps the storyline rolling and the audience awake. Perhaps the film’s best scene is when Hakman sees his own live footage both through his own eyes and on screen. Seeing him subsequently rewinding and viewing the death of parents, a 10-year-old kiss, himself eating a scab, and what really happened in the abandoned warehouse is absorbing.
All things considered, The Final Cut raises a few pertinent questions. With “every moment of your life recorded, would you live it differently?” Knowing that Zoë implants exist, would you live in constant paranoia? Am I being filmed? Am I going to be put up on someone’s rememory in 30 years? Is viewing someone’s life through their eyes playing God? If you could, would you watch the footage for posterity or perversion?
One things for sure, if The Final Cut itself “bought the farm,” there would be little to cut, splice, and show to emanate feelings of remorse for the film’s somber-stated relatives. Requests for highlights would be few and far between. People would leave the rememory feeling neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. All that really could be said is that at least The Final Cut has moved on to a better place.