The Final Cut is a misleading name for this film starring Robin Willams. It's not a slasher/suspense movie, and it's not a movie about filmmaking. It's actually an intriguing, unassuming drama with sci-fi elements that doesn't get bogged down in sci-fi overkill.
It's some time—in the future? Don't know, because it could easily be right now, which makes this movie so easy to imagine. But anyway, Robin Williams is Alan, who works for a living as a cutter. What is a cutter? A cutter is a person who edits Zoe implants. What's a Zoe implant? It's this amazing sort of "microchip" that is voluntarily implanted in individual's memories when they are children (so, it's more like you're volunteered by your parents). Throughout an individual's life, the Zoe records EVERY single moment of that person's experience, good or bad. When the individual dies, in comes the cutter, who interviews family members about what they most want the deceased to be remembered by. The cutter then reviews elements of the Zoe chip that has been removed (there's a quick search by topic so you don't have to watch years and years of footage), and edits all the clips together like a movie, to be shown at what is called a Rememory—where families basically sit and watch a home movie of all the positive moments in the deceased person's life—from the deceased person's perspective. Of course, there are ethical questions to this process, and not everyone agrees to it—which leads to picketers demanding at each Rememory that we "remember for yourself." And as a result, the job of a cutter like Alan sort of likens him to an abortion doctor to certain people. But Alan has his own problems. He's become involved with Delila (Mira Sorvino), the girlfriend of one of his deceased subjects. He's also having run-ins with an old "friend," Fletcher (Jim Caviezel), once a cutter, who now wants to get his hands on the Zoe implant removed from Alan's latest subject. Seems Alan's latest subject has a sordid past—and that could mean trouble for Alan. To make matters worse, Alan's latest subject's life also brings memories flooding back to him about tragedy from his own childhood.
This is one of those movies you watch thinking, "Would I allow myself to get one of those put in if it were real?" And then you begin to think of the ramifications. Sure, it would be nice for your family to remember the good times—but then someone's also going to know your dirty laundry. While it's short and direct, this movie also keeps you wondering how things will turn out with a few twists, and it also brings a sci-fi concept down to a humanistic level, focusing on how technology affects individuals emotionally. It reminded me very much of something Ray Bradbury would explore in one of his brilliant short stories of moral dilemmas. Aside from all that, Robin Williiams is wonderfully subdued and sympathetic, Mira Sorvino, with little screen time, still manages to give a knockout dramatic turn, which doesn't surprise this fan, and Jim Caviezel looks just beautiful with a beard, which brings out his gorgeous eyes and hides some of the gauntness usually noticeable in his cheeks. This is one engrossing film from beginning to end.
The film aspect ratio is 2:35:1, anamorphic. The image is clean and detailed, with an atmospheric soft hue that seems intentional, and the dark, moody blacks contrast nicely with the rather orange lighting to, again, capture a very warm, humanistic feeing. This is a nice, cinematic experience.
You can select 2.0 Dolby surround or 5.1. In 5.1, the main center sound is clear but subdued (like Robin Williams' performance). The surround travel jumps out at you at all the right moments and is accompanied by heart-pounding bass response.
The menu screens are cool because they treat the Zoe implants like something real, and offer nice text explanations of many of the technicalities of the process. Chapter select offers 24 breaks, and there are English or Spanish subtitles that can be turned on. Extras include:
DELETED SCENES—three scenes, two that would have been nice to see back in the film, one which was too short to mean anything. A childhood flashback scene would have made a segue between two scenes much less jarring in the actual film, and another establishes a relationship between two characters that otherwise was left out in…uh…the final cut.
THEATRICAL TRAILER—is presented in letterbox, 2.0 sound.
TRAILER GALLERY—Not much of a gallery. Two trailers: Saw, I Am David.
MAKING OF FINAL CUT—this is one of those making of features that is broken into segments, that should have just been one long documentary. This first part is 25 minutes, and features interviews with first time director Omar Naim, the cast and the crew. Particular shot setups are discussed, the cast and crew praise each other, some behind-the-scenes footage shows Robin being his usual goofy self, the director discusses getting a crew lined up, and there is coverage of creating the film score. Some of this was interesting, some was a little drawn out and excessive, as are some of the following documentary features.
PRODUCTION DESIGN FEATURETTE—as it sounds, the crew discusses the sets and locations. 6 minutes.
SPECIAL EFFECTS FEATURETTE—the fx guys show us some of the tricks of the trade, mostly on a computer screen. 5 minutes.
FROM PRE-PRODUCTION to SCREEN—two scenes to choose from are shown side by side with the original storyboards so you can see how the boards were translated. Interesting for better understanding storyboards.
FINAL CUT COMMENTARY with DIRECTOR OMAR NAIM—I liked listening to this commentary because this first time director has written and directed a smart yet simple film. He discusses how he came up with the idea for the film, raves about working with Robin Williams, explains how he proved himself as a director to those in doubt, and how he tried to make this film different than other sci-fi.
I hope The Final Cut becomes a sleeper hit on DVD or cable. Because this film not only has excellent performances, but it's a film that gets you thinking, doesn't drag on with unnecessary filler, and will make an impression on you, whether or not you're a fan of the usual sci-fi.