I watched “Paycheck” last night. It’s about the third time I’ve seen it, and I quite like it, despite that fact that Ben Affleck is in it. I like the atmosphere, the music fits well, and the mystery is revealed at a good pace. What really struck me this time, though, was the crudeness with which the movie establishes things that will become key in the final fight scene.
First and foremost, right at the beginning (spoilers) Ben Affleck wakes up from his first memory loss job and wants to make sure he is ok. So he goes over to the stick fighting practice range and whacks some big soft pylons with a stick. Gee, I WONDER IF HE WILL GET TO USE HIS STICK FIGHTING SKILLS LATER? Perhaps. A second annoying aspect of this scene is that Paul Giamatti, in addition to being some kind of neurosurgeon, is apparently an ace stick fighting coach. Sidekick for all purposes!
The second ham-handed foreshadowing event is Uma Thurman’s use of her fancy remote control thingy in her plant lab. She hilariously makes robots fly around doing crazy things and makes the wind blow. Gee, I WONDER IF SHE WILL USE HER REMOTE CONTROL TO FIGHT SOME BAD GUYS LATER? Perhaps. Another non-foreshadowing annoyance is this: why would an evil mastermind place his all-powerful top-security future-seeing machine right next door to Uma Thurman’s plant lab? Does the machine run on biodiesel? Would it be wiser to have a bit of distance between the two labs?
I contrast this to the techniques used in “Cast Away”. Right at the end (spoiler) Tom Hanks makes a dramatic escape from the island by sailing a makeshift boat over the breakers. How can he do this? Does he have magical hero sailing abilities? No, he’s established early on as being an accomplished sailor. Not by a heavy-handed establishing scene of an MC announcing “and the winner of this year’s regatta is Tom Hanks!” No. Instead they have a couple sailing trophies in the background of a non-sailing related scene. This is good enough.
Anyway, I still like “Paycheck”.