Infinite (Movie Review)

Infinite (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: A man who was diagnosed as schizophrenic as a teen discovers his mental illness is actually due to the fact that he is an Infinite, someone who has memories from past lives. There are warring groups of Infinites, and he needs to join the fight to save the world.

REVIEW: When author D. Eric Maikranz self-published his debut novel The Reincarnationist Papers back in 2009, he made it very clear that he was hoping his novel would get turned into a feature film. In fact, according to Wikipedia he offered a reward of 10% of any advance to anyone who could get his book into the hands of a film producer who would option the movie rights. The reward offer panned out, and The Reincarnationist Papers has served as the inspiration for the film Infinite. It would be interesting to hear what Maikranz thinks of Incarnate, because - while I haven't read The Reincarnationist Papers myself - it doesn't seem like the movie has much to do with his story. The novel is about a 21-year-old with memories from two past lives joining a small group of others who have memories from their past lives and getting involved with an art heist. The movie has 50-year-old Mark Wahlberg (apparently playing 35) discovering there are hundreds of people who remember their past lives, people known as Infinites, and they're split into two warring groups called Believers and Nihilists. Now he needs to help stop the Nihilists from jump starting the apocalypse.

So what director Antoine Fuqua and writers Ian Shorr and Todd Stein have done here is to take the basic concept from Maikranz's novel and use it as the foundation for a movie that is clearly, desperately trying to follow in the footsteps of and live up to blockbusters like superhero comic book adaptations and The Matrix. With all the world building Infinite attempts to do, and since Wahlberg's character is a regular guy who gets recruited into a secret war because he's believed to unwittingly be the most special Infinite there is, I was especially reminded of The Matrix. This movie feels so desperate to play on that level, it kind of makes you feel pity for it. You want to pat it on the head and say, "Oh, you poor thing."

Infinite Chiwetel Ejiofor Mark Wahlberg Antoine Fuqua

Mark Wahlberg plays Evan McCauley, a man who has been struggling with mental illness since being diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was a teenager. He has spent a lot of time in psychiatric wards, his dreams feel like memories, and sometimes he's surprised to see his own face in the mirror. He has natural skills that he never learned, like he knows how to forge samurai swords even though he was never taught how. He sells those swords to a drug dealer in exchange for anti-psychotic medication, and this illegal drug trade is how he ends up in police custody, where he crosses paths with the villain of the film, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Bathurst.

Bathurst is the leader of the Nihilists, a group of Infinites who feel that this ability to remember past lives is a curse, because they're aware that they just keep living over and over and there's no end to it. So they're going to end the loop by destroying the entire world with a hi-tech device called The Egg. Problem is, they don't know where The Egg is. McCauley took that information to the grave with him in his past life, when he was named Heinrich Treadway and played by Dylan O'Brien. Since that information is buried somewhere in McCauley's mind, Bathurst needs him - and the Believers, the Infinites who want to use their memories to contribute to the protection and advancement of humanity, need to keep him away from Bathurst. So fellow Infinite Nora Brightman (Sophie Cookson) saves McCauley and takes him to the Believers hideout called The Hub, where he is notified that he's not schizophrenic, he just has centuries of memories in his head, and the Believers need to access those memories through a training montage.

Here's where I have to admit that I don't generally find Mark Wahlberg to be very interesting as a leading man. For me, he has still never been better than he was in Boogie Nights as Dirk Diggler, a character who was essentially brain dead, and it's tough for me to see most of his characters as much more competent than Dirk. So I think it's to the benefit of Infinite that Wahlberg was asked to play bewildered and out of his element for much of the film, as that stretch works better than when McCauley is able to access his heroic abilities. Fuqua did give Wahlberg a solid supporting cast to play off of, casting Liz Carr, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, and Jason Mantzoukas as some of the other Infinites - with Mantzoukas really standing out as a character who specializes in debauchery and brain surgery. But the most valuable player in this film is, by far, Ejiofor.

Ejiofor steals the show as the villain who is maddeningly weary of the world and goes to extreme measures in an attempt to get God to show him His face and assure him that there's any meaning to all of this. It is a delight to watch Ejiofor play the madness of Bathurst, and the best scene in the movie comes when he utilizes honey as a torture method against a Believer named Porter and played by Toby Jones. Honey pouring off his chin, Jones is given a moment to go just as big with his performance as Ejiofor goes with his, and in that one moment of them facing off, Infinite achieves greatness.

Infinite Mark Wahlberg Antoine Fuqua

Unfortunately, for many other moments Infinite feels like a slog to get through. It only has a running time of 106 minutes, but it felt so long that I would have believed that it was 146 minutes. The villain and some side characters are interesting, but the lead is not, and the action is aiming high but turns out to be underwhelming. It's like all of Infinite is reaching for a rung on the ladder that the film just can't quite grasp.

If a Mark Wahlberg movie that aspires to be the next Matrix sounds up your alley, Infinite provides some minor entertainment. Even if you're not a Wahlberg fan, the movie might be worth watching just for Ejiofor, and for an amusing moment involving the steel plate McCauley has in his head.

Infinite will be available to watch on the Paramount+ streaming service as of June 10th.

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