In Paradox [2019]

“Have you ever experienced memories that aren’t yours?”

There are very few Arabic science fiction/fantasy films out there, so when I noticed this film available to watch on Netflix, I had to watch it straight away. 

The film follows the main character, starred by Faisal Al-Ameeri. There’s a little mystery about who this character is because no one ever says his name, and it’s not mentioned in the credits which I thought was interesting. The film begins with Faisal driving down the street when memories that are not his own come to him and catch him off guard. We learn that he has had these intrusive memories his whole life, and also that Faisal has recently lost his father. 

He goes looking through his father’s things and finds a small notebook in which it says “I’ve lost control over myself, but the ring of consciousness has given me control over everything. It took control of everything.” Faisal then goes looking for answers with the help of Laila, a journalist friend of the family, and is met with resistance at every turn. He is told he needs to go through a labyrinth which I thought to be the ‘old city’ itself, but it turns out this is merely symbolic as the labyrinth is something else. 

I really liked the concept, and thought that Faisal acted in the character very well (as well as Laila and the mystery woman). He showed a good range of emotion throughout from fearful, to determined and was believable, though I thought his sudden turn to knife-wielding (towards the mystery woman) seemed a bit out of character. On the flipside, some of the peripheral characters simultaneously under and over-acted scenes and this came off quite cringe-worthy. There’s one part where the character Mr Saif appears to be tortured by the ring, but his acting makes it look like he’s reeling in to sneeze… It was pretty underwhelming. Some characters were introduced to advance the story only and then ditched, which seemed unnecessary also. 

I found the film generally slow. The soundtrack was not well suited to the action that was happening on scene, for instance in a scene where Faisal and Laila are chased by armed guards through the city, are shot at and fearing for their lives, the paired soundtrack was mediocre instead of exciting. This was unfortunately to the film’s detriment. 

I had a lot of questions throughout. Like why is Faisal so determined to find this ring? Why does he know it will help him at all? Maybe it’s unrelated, what then? All of this becomes clear with the ending, which was a nice twist and turns the whole perceived genre of the film on its head. 

All in all, I liked some of the ideas in film. I really liked the twist and I think the concept and Faisal’s acting kept me watching longer than I would have if it had been a different lead. I did think the soundtrack let the film down, and think that the script/some peripheral characters could have been cut to improve the film, making it more exciting. Faisal lifted the film up, but as we all know, one man cannot carry the weight of a whole film himself. Overall, it’s an okay film but with some large caveats (different supporting actors, better soundtrack, large swaths of the script edited) could have been a great film. 

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