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By this point, the introverted, low-key genius biding his time doing menial work is just about cliché, and yet we continue to see it pop up time and time again. With The Answer, it returns in an ambitious film that has several good ideas but can’t make good on the premise it sets up, despite some solid contemporary ideas and a decent story.
Meek and mild-mannered Bridd Cole (Austin Hébert) delivers the mail at a stock trading company but is concealing an almost unearthly skill in recognizing patterns, though his best friend (Adam Shapiro) suspects there is something special about him. Bridd’s got a crush on office worker Charlotte (Alexis Carra) whom he ends up with on a date but it goes unexpectedly wrong when he brings her home to a helmeted killer. Managing to escape, he realizes that more like him are now on his path, are they are after him because of a package he received from his mother, even though she’s been dead for twenty years. He learns some startling things about himself that awakens some truly astonishing powers within and now he needs to used them to stay alive.
Written and directed by Iqbal Ahmed, The Answer puts together an old trope, where a pair of young attractive people fight the system per se, discovering much about themselves along the way. Think of the greats like David and Jennifer from WarGames (1983), two teens on the run who basically save the world from global thermonuclear armageddon. It’s perhaps unfair to make the comparison, but unlike that film, the two on the run here have far less chemistry, even as the script pushes hard to build a kind of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese relationship between them. Doling out bits like ‘What’s it like to be you?’, the script is full of nuggets that reach for some elevation but instead land flat. It’s loaded with clichés though at least there is an earnestness to it all that keeps it entertaining if not overwrought.
Ahmed is working with a very small budget and as such keeps things conspicuously local, and despite a thrilling start involving an abduction and murder, it remains confined almost entirely to Bridd and Charlotte, developing their shaky love story and the occasional Daft Punk-looking assassins chasing them. Ahmed wisely avoids filling this with poorly-rendered CGI, instead keeping almost everything practical, which helps keep it grounded. The problem is the energy, or lack thereof. There’s very little momentum throughout the middle section, with a generic score and too many obvious scripted moments we’ve seen time and time again. Unnecessary contrivances such as electronic handcuffs that grow tighter with each failed attempt to unlock them fill precious time needed in better establishing the menace of the bad guys, who never seem all that threatening.
More of an issue is the central conceit of a young man who learns he has extraordinary powers but is somehow angry about it, and while the loss he has experienced is certainly something to consider, it’s not developed enough to really matter. That said, there are some shining moments and Ahmed manages to stoke some tension here and there along with some strongly-directed action scenes. This is his feature length directorial debut (filmed in 2015) and he at least shows promise if given the opportunity to do more.
Movie description: The Answer is a 2017 sci-fi thriller about an introverted young man who must follow clues left by his dead parents in order to figure out who is after him, and who he really is.
Director(s): Iqbal Ahmed
Actor(s): Austin Hébert, Alexis Carra, David S. Lee