Old Movie Review: Paycheck (2003)

“Paycheck” starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman is a pretty messed up movie (messed up in a good way).

 

Ben Affleck plays reverse engineer Michael Jennings in the movie who makes his living by ripping off other people’s ideas and improving upon them. And then there’s a twist. He gets his memory erased each time he reverse engineers something. This is done by his cohort, affectionately called Shorty, who’s in the business of wiping memories. Then, Jennings gets a surprising offer he can’t refuse. He is given the opportunity to work on a project that will reshape the world, and he will be paid with stock options that are “guaranteed” to earn him eight figures, or something like that. The catch is that the project will take longer than usual; he’ll have two to three years of his life wiped away. Cut to the future where he’s completed the project, but his memories been wiped away, and he has no idea what he’s been doing for the last several years.

Then, things start to go wrong and he finds himself on the run, trying to backtrack what he did.

Uma Thurman plays his love interest: Rachel Porter who helps him out.

 

The movie is handled superbly. The clues are plentiful and well-placed. I don’t want to give away too much—in fact, I may have already done so—so, I’m just going to leave it at that. The scientific background to the story was “plausible,” yet, if you really push me it is flawed. But only flawed after a serious analysis, which is not fitting for this movie. It is intended as an intriguing ride, and it provides just that provided you don’t go into analytical overkill.

 

Probably the biggest “flaw” in the movie is that it’s really a one-shot deal. If you watch the movie again, it’s still a decent movie, but you can’t recapture the intrigue from the first viewing. I know all movies are like that to a certain extent, but this one is more so. The mystery is so well-developed the first viewing is an amazing treat. I own it, but I don’t watch it as often as other movies, because the suspense is gone.

 

So, I heartily recommend this movie to those who have not seen it. I’ll give it five stars for an initial viewing, but further viewings probably only earn three and a half, or four stars (out of five).

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