The Tesseract Movie Review
Based on the novel by Alex Garland, whose first novel, The Beach, was made into a movie that pumped up the action while ignoring the book's philosophical and sociological musings, The Tesseract suffers a similar fate. It's directed by the energetic action genius Oxide Pang (who sometimes teams up with his more prolific twin brother Danny on thrillers such as The Eye). Simply put, he's not a good fit here. Dispensing with the novel's heavy meaning-of-life issues, Pang focuses instead on the bang bang stuff, and what could have been a deep and introspective movie becomes a follow-the-stolen-drugs-through-the-crowded-streets action flick.
Like The Beach, The Tesseract begins in a seedy Bangkok hotel room, where minor-league drug trafficker Sean (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is waiting to pick up a small but valuable shipment which he'll then pass on to exporters who are waiting at a dock. Also in the hotel is Rosa (Saskia Reeves), a British psychologist who's in town to interview street children about their dreams. It's her way of coping after losing her own young son to a fatal illness.
Rosa latches on to young Wit (Alexander Rendel), a charming street kid who does odd jobs in the hotel (and whose English, by the way, is far too good for his circumstances). Wit is also a petty thief given to rifling through the guests' luggage while they're out and selling their goods on the black market.
Mix in a female assassin who's waiting in the hotel to steal a drug shipment from one gang to deliver to another, and you've got a situation that's ready to explode, especially after the assassin is murdered in the hotel and Sean worries the police inspectors scouring the hotel will discover his dope. But wait? Where is it? Wit has stolen it and given it to Rosa as a "gift" to hang onto for safe keeping, telling her it's a special kind of Thai pudding. Now Rosa's gone, Wit is missing, and Sean is desperate.
Using a chaotic blend of fast-motion, slow-motion, and handheld shots, Pang and crew take to the streets for a wild hunt for the drugs, now in the bag of the oblivious Rosa. All roads lead to a slum where Rosa thinks she'll find more orphans to interview. Instead she runs into an ambush organized by drug dealers who have no qualms shooting men, women, or children to get their hands on the merchandise. It's hard to guess who, if anyone, will survive to see another Bangkok morning.
Pang knows how to keep the tension cranked up, and all his actors, Rhys-Meyers in particular, know how to sweat and look very nervous as they run up and down the hotel staircase. But we've seen all this before, and Pang's chance to make it unique by incorporating some of Garland's theories about the mysterious workings of the universe slides right by.
Is The Tesseract scenic? For sure. Is it interesting? Not really.