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The Final Cut

Life, As You Want It To Be

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There is a clever idea at the heart of The Final Cut, the kind of idea that could inspire an exceptional movie. The Final Cut isn't that movie. It is intriguing and, for the most part, thoroughly entertaining, but it doesn't have any real direction, and its dramatic climax seems arbitrary, as if screenwriter Omar Naim was merely looking for a way out.

Robin Williams, whose mercifully understated performances in Awakenings and Insomnia make him a natural fit for the role, plays the dour Alan Hakman, whose sadness is reflected in his eyes, his habitual grimace, his melancholy monotone. He lives in a futuristic America in which human beings, thanks to the wonders of memory implants, can record their personal histories as one would a home video, capturing every moment right up to the bitter end. Afterward, the microchips in their skulls are removed and entrusted to cutters.

Cutters are a strange breed. Charged with the weighty task of organizing human lives into a moving highlight reel (a "rememory") intended to honor the deceased, they acquire an intimate knowledge of those whose cases they are assigned. When those lives are marred by messy details -- spousal abuse, incest, rape -- the cutters must dutifully edit them out, leaving only the rosiest images and heartwarming moments. Hakman is considered the best of them, a man with an eye for the right details and the stomach for the grislier episodes in the lives of his subjects.

There are, however, certain rules that the cutters must abide by, and Hakman is unwittingly breaking the most crucial of the lot. Much to his chagrin, he discovers that he, too, has been implanted with a memory chip since birth, a definite no-no in the cutter community. Every second of his own existence, not to mention the excised footage of his myriad subjects, is being recorded, an invasion of privacy that throws him into a state of frenzied bewilderment.

There is one benefit to his revelation. Hakman's sadness stems from a childhood episode in which a friend fell, presumably to his death, in an abandoned warehouse. Hakman feels responsible, and has carried this secret with him for decades. When he thinks he's spotted his old friend, alive and well, in the footage of his latest subject, he has the option, thanks to the chip in his head, of reviewing the past to see what really happened.

Subplots abound in The Final Cut, involving Hakman's short-lived affair with Delila (Mira Sorvino) and encounters with an anti-cutter subculture led by the dangerous Fletcher (Jim Caviezel, who will forever be known as The Guy Who Played Jesus Christ). It's a complicated, confusing affair, leading up to a surprise ending that feels entirely too random. And yet the movie raises some interesting questions: If you could record your entire life, would you? And if you did, would it be fair to the unwitting supporting cast, friends, family members, lovers?

Unfortunately, The Final Cut offers no real answers. It seems to be of two minds on the matter and fails finally to live up to its considerable promise.

Stars: 2.5 out of 5