The Anomaly review

Noel Clarke brings a British sci-fi movie to the big screen. Here's our review of The Anomaly...

The Anomaly finds Noel Clarke in an ambitious mood. Taking centre stage, and directing a feature for the third time, this is a science fiction film that demands concentration and works hard within its limits. And it opens really very strongly too. Clarke’s character, Ryan, wakes up in the back of a van, with just minutes to work out what’s happening. One quick escape later, and the mystery of the film gradually begins to unfold.

For we learn that Clarke’s character here – coincidentally in a film not a million miles away from Edge Of Tomorrow in theme – is a man who has a small amount of time, before he drifts into unconsciousness, only to wake up somewhere else in the world, and sometimes much later on. So what’s going on? Well, clues to the mystery seem to lie in the shape of Ian Somerhalder’s Harkin. But then there are terrorists, people with few clothes on, and clues and hints to the puzzle that are gradually revealed. In the early stages in particular, it’s fun trying to puzzle out what’s going on.

There are some good performances in this midst of all of this too. We get a little dose of Brian Cox, albeit one that goes a long way. Clarke and Somerhalder are generally good in the leading roles, and Alexis Knapp has spark in a supporting part. We also get Luke Hemsworth having lots of fun as an anti-terrorism agent.

What we don’t get, though, is a consistently entertaining film. In his previous directorial outing, the underrated, Clarke found lots of ways to throw different side angles on the same story. Here, his film requires his character to go through similar motions time and time again, albeit with bits of extra information, but there’s a rule of diminishing returns at work.

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Positively, when he pulls back and looks at the broader world, Clarke has a skill for painting a future landscape on screen (not least a surprise or two with his locations, and effects work). Furthermore, there are some skilful directorial touches, and the broad canvas serves The Anomaly well. The problem is that by the time the answers finally start properly coming, you find yourself nowhere near as interested in the questions any more. That the moments of snap and sparkle the movie demonstrates, particularly in the early stages, have petered out early. It’s an inherent problem in any film that requires a character to go through similar questions time and time again, and The Anomaly doesn’t quite come to terms with it as well as it needs to.

Should you see it? There are enough merits to make it worth a watch, and it’s always refreshing to see a British sci-fi film, particularly one with interesting ideas, get a big screen release. In that sense, it’s just the kind of project for which support is welcome. But for all the efforts here, and the growing sense that Clarke’s future filmography is going to be a lot of fun to explore, The Anomaly sadly runs out of steam too far away from its end point.

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2 out of 5