April 5, 2018 The Humanity Bureau (Movie Review)
It is the year 2030 and the United States has fallen into chaos thanks to a moribund economy and the ravages of global warming. Amid these crises, an organization is given the power to determine whether or not American citizens are productive enough to remain in the country. The Humanity Bureau, set for release in theaters, on VOD, and in a special VR format on Friday, April 6, 2018 through QME Entertainment Inc., tells the tale of this dark near future.
Nicolas Cage (Con Air 1997, National Treasure 2004) stars as Noah Kross, a caseworker with the bureau. When Kross is tasked with deporting a mother and her son, his impartiality is thrown out the window. Rachel Weller (Sarah Lind: Fargo series 2015, Taken series 2018) and the boy Lucas (Jakob Davies: The Tall Man 2012, If I Stay 2014) grow on Kross. His newfound emotional attachment forces his superior Adam Westinghouse (Hugh Dillon: Wind River 2017, Twin Peaks: The Return 2017) into the field to track Kross and the Wellers down before they can escape the country.
Overall, The Humanity Bureau is a film that does not leave much to the imagination. It wants to ensure its point of view is communicated clearly. It certainly seems as if Director Rob W. King (Corner Gas 2004, Hungry Hills 2009) and Writer Dave Schultz (Jet Boy 2001, 45 R.P.M. 2008) are not optimistic about where the nation is heading.
Those looking for an unhinged Nicolas Cage, will have to search elsewhere. He is very low key here and that works to suggest a complicity in and perhaps a sorrow about where the nation is. Cage’s Kross has no reason to be suspicious of anything. The world is in dire straits and he just feels lucky to be working. Everything changes once Kross discovers the truth about New Eden, the seeming paradise where everyone is deported. That singular Cage anxiety begins to show when he finds out just what is really happening there. That in mind, The Humanity Bureau is not going to rewrite the book on dystopian Science Fiction, but Cage is a pro.
The situation is simple enough, so the story luckily avoids too much exposition. This affords the movie more of a chance to focus on character. Hugh Dillon’s Westinghouse is an appropriately hammy villain. He suffers an injury early on that visually ensures his turn to the overtly dark side. It is kind of a clichéd reference to villainy that may have some viewers laughing. He does what he can with it.
The mother and son duo are a mixed bag. Sarah Lind plays her mother role as best as she can. Jakob Davies as Lucas is another matter. At times his character is rather annoying as he repeatedly does stupid things against the wishes of his mother that put him and others in danger. Empathizing with the boy is a bit of a challenge to say the least. The acting overall settles in that B-movie range of just decent enough across the board.
The film takes place in Nevada and Montana, so the cinematography allows for the space of the terrain to really breathe. It never looks too futuristic, but then again it takes place only a little over ten years from now. The Humanity Bureau has a lo-fi physicality to it, which is a plus.
So, does it all come together? The Humanity Bureau has a lot it wants to speculate about. Once again, it is not optimistic about the future of the United States. It makes this overtly clear in an early sequence about who it feels is mostly to blame. That said, it also never feels like it is trying to craft a really original way of communicating that anger and pessimism. It speechifies and moralizes, but it never quite feels like more than a sophomoric howl. The ending unfolds in a gut-punch that is somewhat funny in how matter-of-factly it is delivered.
All this in mind, The Humanity Bureau is not a bad film, but it is not necessarily a good one either. It is a competent enough film that is just kind of there. Come for a subdued Nicolas Cage and stay for the whacked out and humorously mean-spirited ending. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives The Humanity Bureau 2 out of 5 stars.