THE FINAL CUT
Of all four of these films on the theme of memory editing, The Final Cut was the least recognised. It did the rounds of film festivals but never obtained a widespread theatrical release and was quickly sent to video. This is a shame as The Final Cut is a surprisingly intelligent science-fiction film and deservous of much wider recognition than it received. Indeed, The Final Cut is a perfect example of what an intelligent science-fiction film should be it centres about a single premise (a future where memories can be recorded and are edited for a persons funeral) and has a story that results from the logical exploration of that idea.
The central premise of The Final Cut is a fascinating one it could be the technological innovations that featured in films like Brainstorm (1983) and Strange Days (1995) extrapolated a generation on, where the varying devices seen there have become embedded into the social framework and is explored with considerable conceptual dexterity. We are given remarkable glimpses in the scenes of Robin Williams editing memories where his calm, anonymous platitudes to clients are contrasted to scenes of him viewing the deceased beating his wife, or where he attends the Rememory service and recognises a woman who greets the wife as someone the husband was having an affair with. The twists that the screenplay keeps putting on the idea a rebel group wanting access to a corporate CEOs memories and hunting Robin Williams to get them, Williams recognising a childhood friend that he believed dead inside a memory he is editing are ingenious.
The Final Cut was directed and written by Omar Naïm, an expatriate Jordanian whose previous film had only been a documentary Grand Theater: A Tale of Beirut (1999), about the civil war in Lebanon as seen through the eyes of a theatrical group. There is a lovely coolness to some of Naïms images a montage sequence that Robin Williams has composed that travels back through a mans life from old age to childhood via images of him looking at himself in the bathroom mirror shaving and brushing his teeth; a surreal sequence of dream slippage memories involving cars filled with fish and dogs surrounding a hotel. The film has a wonderfully brooding quiet to it. Visually and dramatically, it is very subdued and comes in an almost whispered tone. There is even a muted production design scheme to match especially notable being the wooden laptop and computer console finishes (something that one predicts is going to become a real world fashion accessory in the near future).
The quietness of the film is particularly noticeable when it comes to the performance of Robin Williams. Williams turns inwards and plays at almost opposite extremes to the manic over-the-top extroversion of the performances he has become known for. Here his performance is that of an emotionally withdrawn milquetoast professional who comes with all the anonymous efficiency of a funeral director. (For what is essentially an arthouse release and an unknown director only in his twenties, the film has managed to obtain an impressive calibre of actors).
One complaint that can be made about the film is that it never emerges into the detective story that it promises to be. Though it seems to be a major element at the outset, the missing childhood friend mystery is resolved and forgotten about without much drama. There are also the odd loose end there is one scene where we get the impression from the memories being edited that Bannister was molesting his daughter, although later scenes with Robin Williams talking to her show that this was not the case at all. For all that, The Final Cut should be celebrated as a film of rare intelligence.
Omar Naïm subsequently went onto make the supernatural film Dead Awake (2010).
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 2004 Awards).